10 March 2009

Systematic Theology--Lesson 2, God the Father

Our pastor has developed a "Systematic Theology" series for us teachers. It does not come close to the volume of work by men like Grudem or Carson, but that is not the intent. He developed it to systematize our core beliefs, what we believe and why, using biblical support. The second topic is God the Father.

Welcome to lesson number two. We are talking today about God the Father. And when it comes to what we believe, this may be the most important set of beliefs we can have. Because if our beliefs about God are wrong, then anything else we believe will not mater. If we believe God the Father was born to a set of parents in some other world, and that He only obtained Godhood through obeying some set of principles and ordinances--then we can have a perfectly sound view of salvation, faith, etc--and we will be no closer to Heaven than the blasphemer who rejects any idea of god outright. the Bible says about God the Father. Tozer, from Knowledge of the Holy:

“I believe there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God...Among the sins to which the human heart is prone, hardly any other is more hateful to God than idolatry, for idolatry is at bottom a libel on His character. The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is—in itself a monstrous sin—and substitutes for the true God one made after its own likeness. Always this God will conform to the image of the one who created it and will be base or pure, cruel or kind, according to the moral state of the mind from which it emerges. A god begotten in the shadows of a fallen heart will quite naturally be no true God. “Thou thoughtest,” said the Lord to the wicked man in the psalm, “that I was altogether such an one as thyself”...Let us beware lest we in our pride accept the erroneous notion that idolatry consists only in kneeling before visible objects of adoration, and that civilized peoples are therefore free from it. The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.”

Basically, what he is saying is that any false teaching, false belief, heresy, cult—they all stem from false beliefs about God. The Mormon beliefs about God the Father—that He has a physical body, He progressed to Godhood—they build many of their beliefs upon that ground. James Montgomery Boice wrote in his book Foundations of the Christian Faith (p. 110):
"What we know about the Trinity we know only because of God’s revelation of it in the Bible…so prone are we to make mistakes in dealing with this subject that we must be specially careful lest we go beyond or misrepresent what we find in Scripture."
And speaking of Scripture, the first point I want to make is While we cannot know God exhaustively, we can know Him intimately. In other words, does an infant know every single thing about mom and dad? No. But they do know mom and dad's voice. face, etc etc. They may not know where mom and dad were raised, where they went to school, where they work, etc. But they do know that mom and dad love them and care for them. When we talked about how we got the Bible, what was one of the reasons why God spoke the Scriptures to us? So that we may know Him. He wants us to know Him. Hosea 6:6--"I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." Proverbs 9:10--"The fear of YHVH is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding..."

First, we look at the concept of General Revelation. We know Him by reading His word. But in the early days of the human race—some 6-10 thousand years ago—even way back then, men knew that there was at least a God—they may not have had the written word, they may not have known THE God—but the Canaanites, the Hivites, the Jebusites, all the “-ites” knew that there was some supreme being that ruled over everything. Psalm 19:1--The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament shows His handiwork. Romans 1:20since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse. If someone says “There is no God” then they have truly deluded themselves because even the natural man knows there is something or someone greater than themselves.

Then there is Special Revelation. That would be God revealing Himself in the Scriptures. But He did not reveal Himself to simply anyone. He chose a certain people group. Of course I am speaking of the Jews, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In fact Paul says in Romans 9:3-5I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen. Almost every book in the Bible (64 out of 66) was written by a Jew. The only exceptions are Luke and Acts, with Luke being the only Gentile to write Scripture. God gave the Law to the Jews. It was through Jewish ancestry and descendants that the Messiah was to be born. And yes, Jesus was Jewish.

Which brings us to the next point—The Revelation of Christ. Christ was the revelation of God in the flesh. He was also the fulfillment of Scripture. Hebrews 1:3 says that Christ is the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person. John 1:18--No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. John 14:7-9--"If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him." Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?". All those passages speak of God revealing Himself through Christ. And in fact we learn more about who God is through Christ. We also see through the Scriptures the many attributes of God.

Then we have The Perfections of God. Again, we only know of the perfections He has revealed through the Scriptures and through Christ. He is SPIRIT. He does not have a physical body of flesh and bone. Many times we read about how God “stretched out His hand” and sent plagues on Egypt. Or how we trust “under the shadow of His wings” in Psalm 36:7. God the Father does not have wings, He does not have hands. John 4:24“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.” Colossians 1:15--[Christ] is the image of the invisible God.

He is ETERNAL. He is not bound by time. When God is speaking out of the burning bush, and Moses asks, “Whom shall I say sent me?” God says what? “I AM THAT I AM. Tell them” who sent him? “Tell them I AM has sent you” (Exodus 3:13-14). The name God uses to speak of Himself is YHVH. I AM. Not “I was” or “I will be.” I AM. He is what? He simply IS. He is when? He simply IS. Every single event in history, 1000’s of years past, 1000’s of years future—to God, they are all in the present. Psalm 90:2--Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. Isaiah 40:28--Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, he Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable...

He is IMMUTABLE. The word immutable means "unchangeable." Malachi 3:6--"I AM YHVH, I do not change." James 1:17--Every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of Lights, in whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning.

He is HOLY—we need to talk about the holiness of God for a moment. Many people today think of a Buddhist monk or a Hindu priest or a Muslim cleric as a “holy man.” They sure look religious, don’t they? See, there’s a difference between being “religious” and being “holy.” The word “holy” means “separate.” It means the one who is holy is so different from anything and everything else that there is nothing and no one we could compare him to. There is only one who is truly “holy” and that is God. Many times God is referred to in the Bible as the “Holy One of Israel.” The Buddhist monk, the Hindu priest, the Muslim cleric—these are sinful men who will be among those who will find their place in the Lake of Fire—there is nothing holy about that. 1st Samuel 2:2There is no one holy like YHVH.

God is not only separate from man, He is separate from His creation. Isaiah 6:1-3--In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings...And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is YHVH of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!" Revelation 4:8--The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!" Psalm 99:5Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at His footstool—He is holy. I have been guilty, on more than one occasion, to try and describe God. I can't. Nobody can describe God—because He is not like anything. One of my favorite sermons from Paul Washer, and he talks about the love of God. He said something like this: many men try and say “the love of God is like…” But the love of God is not like anything because God is not like anything. That’s what it means to be holy. We’re going to talk about this “love of God” in a moment.

He is SOVEREIGN, He is OMNISCIENT, He is OMNIPOTENT, God is LOVE—and we don’t have enough weeks in the year to dispel all the silly notions that people come up with because they turn that verse on its ear and make a shipwreck out of it. It does not mean that He just kinda ignores our sins and dismisses our rebellions against Him. Some people think that because God is love, He can't hate. Wrong. God does hate. Let me say that again. God hates. Follow me here. How many times do we hear that “God hates sin but…” No, He does not love the sinner! Now, hear me out. He does not hate the one that He is going to save. There are many who are of the elect and not yet saved. His hatred is not directed at those people. The elect are the ones He has chosen to save, and loves those, and will save those. His hatred is directed, rather, against those who continue to turn their backs on Him rather than turn their back on sin. Those who die in their sins are the object of His hatred. Psalm 5:4-5For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, nor shall evil dwell with You. The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity. Did you notice that? Does He hate all iniquity? Yes. But more than that the Psalmist says of God, You hate all workers of iniquity. Psalm 7:11-13God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day. If he [the wicked] does not turn back, He [God] will sharpen His sword; He bends His bow and makes it ready. He also prepares for Himself instruments of death; He makes His arrows into fiery shafts. And probably the clearest Scripture which shows the hatred of God is Romans 9:13As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

This brings us to another attribute of God—He is WRATHFUL. This is one attribute that is misunderstood almost as much as “God is love.” These people that go around with “God is love!” and “God loves you just the way you are, and He has a wonderful plan for your life! Send me your money!” They walk around with these syrupy sentimentalities dripping off their lips having no clue what they're talking about. They don’t like to talk about the wrath of God because, quite frankly, they are ashamed of it. A.W. Pink wrote in his book The Sovereignty of God:
“It is sad to find so many professing Christians who appear to regard the wrath of God as something for which they need to make an apology; or at least they wish there were no such thing.”
When many people think of the wrath of God, they think He is this big, mean old tyrant who wakes up grumpy every morning, and even before He’s had His Starbucks™ someone ticks Him off so He just send a lightning bolt up their nose. But those are people who do not know God. Because His wrath is perfect. He does not just direct His wrath at a person for no good reason. It is directed against everything that exalts itself against Him. His wrath is the reason why Hell exists. Matthew 25:41“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’” Jude 1:6the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day. 2nd Peter 2:4God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment. God created Hell as the final destination of Lucifer and all the angels who sided with Lucifer and rebelled against God. All those who reject Christ will join them there. Let me make this very clear: God did not create Hell just so He could “get His jollies torturing people forever.” I have had people tell me that. Hell was created for those who spent their lives fighting against God.

It is the eternal expression of His hatred toward sin. Many times God has revealed His wrath against sinful man as a warning to avoid His eternal wrath. 2nd Peter chapter 2 speaks of how God has expressed His wrath against sin. He destroyed the world with a flood. He rained fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities. He sent ten plagues on Egypt, finally sending the angel of death to slay the firstborn sons of Egypt. He even sent His wrath against His people Israel. In Numbers 21 we read about God sending fiery serpents among the people.

In fact, the wrath of God is still just as real now as it was then. Colossians 3:6Because of these things—fornication, uncleanness, evil passions, covetousness—because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience. Romans 1:18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness. And what happens to someone who dies without accepting Christ as their Savior and Lord? They will suffer the wrath of God for eternity. Matthew 10:28“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

But the Scriptures also reveal many attributes of God that most people do not know about. He is our Father. Oddly enough, there are people who would much rather paint God as a mean old tyrant than as a loving Father. Some words from Christ Himself:
Matthew 6:26“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
Matthew 7:11“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”
Luke 12:6-7“Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

God also forgives those who come to Him through Christ. A person may be a hundred years old, but if they beg for forgiveness on their deathbed, they see themselves as being the sinner they are, and they call on the name of Christ, then God will forgive that person. 2nd Peter 3:9The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. Now, make no mistake: this verse does not mean that every single person ever born will be saved. What it means is that God is patient with a person He knows will be saved, and will not allow them to die before that person comes to repentance. After all, was He not patient with that thief that hung by Jesus' right hand, even until that man's nearly last breath?

Romans 5:6-11For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

We were enemies of God. We did not know how to make peace with God. We did not want to make peace with God. So instead of letting us all die and wind up in Hell, He sent His Son—not for a planet full of good people, not for a world full of righteous people, but for a world filled with sinful, prideful, spiteful, hateful creatures like you and me. And if we get that backwards, if we think that God saved us because we had done something to make ourselves worthy of being saved, if we think we can earn His grace--then friends we will have a very skewed view of what it means to be saved, and we will in fact be more likely to show someone the way to Hell rather than the way to Heaven.

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