The nature of God

 

I love Bible study!!  I love teaching Bible study, and I also love attending a Bible study that is taught by someone else.  I just enjoy studying the Word and growing in my knowledge of Christ.  So, I joined a Bible study at my church a few months ago, and we’re studying the book of Romans.  Romans is one of my favorite books to study, but this class has been such a disappointment.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate all of the women in the group and love fellowshipping every week.  I also LOVE our church that we go to when we are up here in Northern California… the Pastor is awesome, and I learn so much from him.  It’s a Rhema based church and so there is a tremendous amount of teaching on faith and specifically who we are in Christ.  Which I absolutely love!

This Bible study, however, is using a curriculum from a well-known Bible teacher and her teaching is not something I enjoy.  It doesn’t look at the Old Testament through the lens of the finished work of the Cross.  So….. suffice it to say, I’m not enjoying the class.  Today’s class was on Romans 9, and our lesson was on the nature of God.  We were learning what His attributes are… both natural and moral.  According to this lesson, natural attributes are describing what God IS, and moral attributes are describing HOW God deals with mankind.  She is not the only one who teaches this… google God’s attributes/nature, and you’ll find similar lists online through many sources.

I really had a difficult time with this lesson because it gives us an incomplete picture of who God is since some of these attributes are rooted in the Old Testament and don’t take into account what Jesus did through the Cross and the Resurrection.  Since the women in the class, except for myself and 2 other ladies, believed that this list thoroughly describes God’s nature, I thought I would share on my blog a few of the attributes that I feel are an incomplete picture of God.

The list of attributes were as follows:

Natural Attributes:

  • Omniscient
  • Omnipotent
  • Omnipresent
  • Eternal
  • Immutable
  • Incomprehensible – God, including His nature and acts, is beyond the comprehension of any creature.  Man understands only what God chooses to reveal about Himself, His purposes, and His ways (Job 11:7 and Romans 11:33)
  • Self-existent
  • Self-sufficient
  • Infinite
  • Transcendent
  • Sovereign

Moral Attributes:

  • Holy
  • Gracious
  • Righteous
  • Just – God rewards and punishes sin proportionate to His love of the former and His hatred of the latter (Psalm 89:14; Numbers 14:18, 23:19; Romans 9:14)
  • Merciful
  • Slow to anger
  • Wise
  • Loving 
  • Good
  • Wrathful – God hates all that is unrighteous, and He punishes all unrighteousness.  Whatever is inconsistent with His holy standard must ultimately be atoned for or consumed. (Romans 1:18; John 3:36; 2 Chron 19:2; Col 3:5-6; Rev 15:7)
  • Truthful
  • Faithful
  • Jealous – God does not share His glory with another (Isaiah 48:11; Exodus 34:14; Isaiah 42:8)

Reminder this is not MY list of God’s attributes/nature…. it is from a Bible study I’m attending.  

I highlighted bold the 6 that I feel are incomplete pictures of who God is.  Not that they’re necessarily wrong…. God did manifest those attributes under the Old Covenant — they are just INCOMPLETE and don’t show the reality of the finished work of the Cross.

LOVING and TRUTHFUL

I highlighted LOVING and TRUTHFUL only because I don’t feel they are moral attributes only — based on her teaching that moral attributes are HOW God deals with mankind and natural attributes being who God IS.  He is not just loving and truthful to mankind.  HE IS LOVE, and HE IS TRUTH.  Because He is those things… because His nature is love and His nature is Truth, everything He does is loving and truthful.  But He is not Love because He’s loving nor is loving an adjective to describe Him.  LOVE is His very essence. The same goes for TRUTH (Jn 14:6; Jn 16:13;).

INCOMPREHENSIBLE

To say God is incomprehensible is to give an incomplete picture of who God is.  He is not beyond our comprehension.  He is definitely infinitely limitless, and we will forever be learning of who He is and growing in our knowledge of Him.  He was definitely incomprehensible to the unbelieving Israelites.  Romans 11:33 says He is incomprehensible because of their rejection of the Messiah due to their unbelief.  To Job and his friends, the Lord is incomprehensible (Job 11:7).  However, the story of Job is before the finished work of the Cross.

While I do not disagree that He is incomprehensible to men at times… definitely in the Old Testament and in the New Testament to the unbelieving (because the natural mind cannot understand God)…. it still is not a complete picture of who He is.  Just leaving it at incomprehensible does nothing for my faith or help me grow in grace.  We also have a Knowability of God thanks to Jesus.

Jesus came and revealed to us who God is… what His nature looks like.  Men had a wrong, distorted perspective of God’s nature and Jesus set it straight.  Let’s take a look at Hebrews 1:1-3 and John 17:26 in some different translations.

  • Hebrews 1:1-3 says “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, (2) Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;  (3) Who being the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person.”  
  • Hebrews 1:3 in the Message Bible:  This Son perfectly mirrors God, and is stamped with God’s nature. He holds everything together by what he says—powerful words!
  • Hebrews 1:3a in the Mirror Bible: Jesus is the radiant and flawless expression of the person of God. He makes the glorious intent of God visible and mirrors the character and every attribute of God in human form. 
  • John 17:26 says “and I have made Your name known to them and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” 
  • Verse 26 in the Amplified says “I have made Your Name known to them and revealed Your character and Your very Self, and I will continue to make [You] known, that the love which You have bestowed upon Me may be in them [felt in their hearts] and that I [Myself] may be in them.” 
  • Verse 26 in the Message Bible says I have made Your very being known to them
    Who you are and what you do— And continue to make it known, So that your love for me might be in them exactly as I am in them.
  • John 17:26 in the Mirror Bible: And I have made the essence of Your being known to them so that they may know You by name, and I will also give them understanding to know that the same love with which You have loved Me is in them even as I am in them!

So a complete picture of God’s nature would include what we now have available through the Cross.  Jesus FULLY revealed His nature to us… He is no longer incomprehensible to us.  Nothing was hidden from us about God.  So what Scriptures do we have that show us the Knowability of God?

  • We can have a full and personal knowledge of Him
    • 2 Peter 1:3:  His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness
      • Amplified says through the FULL, PERSONAL knowledge of Him
  • We have been given understanding to know Him
    • Jer 9:24: but let the one who boasts boast about this:  that they have the understanding to know me,
      • Message Bible says  If you brag, brag of this and this only: That you understand and know me I’m God, and I act in loyal love.
      • Amplified says  But let him who glories glory in this: that he understands and knows Me [personally and practically, directly discerning and recognizing My character]
  • Eternal life is being able to know or comprehend God and His Son Jesus
    • John 17:3:  Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
      • Know is ginosko in Greek — to take in knowledge; to comprehend
      • Mirror Bible says: This life of the ages, invites them to engage in the inexhaustible adventure of knowing you, the only true God and Jesus as the Christ whom you have commissioned!
      • Amplified says: And this is eternal life: [it means] to know (to perceive, recognize, become acquainted with, and understand) You, the only true and real God, and [likewise] to know Him, Jesus [as the] Christ (the Anointed One, the Messiah), Whom You have sent.
  • God has promised that ALL shall know Him
    • Heb 8:11:  And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
  • Because we love and are born of God we have the ability to know God clearly
    • 1 Jn 4:7:  Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God, and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth (ginosko) God.
      • Amplified says:  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is (springs) from God; and he who loves [his fellowmen] is begotten (born) of God and is coming [progressively] to know and understand God [to perceive and recognize and get a better and clearer knowledge of Him].
  • 1 Cor 2:9-10:  But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.  But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit
    • Verse 10 in the Mirror Bible says: These profound mysteries of God’s eternal resolve are now thoroughly unveiled to us by his Spirit; nothing is hidden from him; he explores the innermost thoughts of God.
  • We have the mind of Christ and so we know what Christ knows
    • 1 Cor 2:16:  For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
      • Message Bible says Isaiah’s question, “Is there anyone around who knows God’s Spirit, anyone who knows what he is doing?” has been answered: Christ knows, and we have Christ’s Spirit.
  • We know ALL things
    • 1 John 2:20: But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.

Why would I want to study the Incomprehensibility of God when the New Covenant promises me that I can FULLY, INTIMATELY, PERSONALLY, COMPLETELY, know Him. This is worth exploring in greater depth. I did not do an exhaustive study of the Knowability of God.  Study it for yourself.  Don’t just “parrot” what a Bible teacher says…. even this Bible teacher 😏  

In the next blog, we’ll look at the nature of God being Just.

~ Robin

10 Commandments – a ministry of death and condemnation

But if the ministration of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!  ~ 2 Cor 3:7-9

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A couple of months ago I joined a Bible study at our church and the study is on the book of Romans.  As much as I love teaching, I also really enjoy being a student and learning from someone else…. and I LOVE studying the book of Romans!!  Although I have to admit, this Bible study hasn’t been my favorite.  I love the women in it and especially their hungry hearts to know the Word BUT I’m not a big fan of the type of study we’re doing.  It’s a Bible study curriculum from a well known Bible teacher… but it’s just that a mainstream curriculum is not my favorite way to study the Word.

The past couple of months we have been studying chapters 6, 7 & 8 and because those chapters deal a lot with the subject of the Mosaic Law, our study has mostly centered around the Law and specifically, what place it has in our lives after we’re saved.  I was surprised that although most Christians consider themselves living under grace, they still love having the Law as a guideline for living righteously.  In fact in this Bible study, I attend, the teacher called the Law (specifically the 10 commandments) our moral compass.  And YET Paul said you cannot mix the two…. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works (law); if it were, grace would no longer be grace. (Romans 11:6)

As believers, we would all agree that following the 613 commandments of the Mosaic Law is not necessary because we are not under Law but under grace (Romans 6:14).  Yet we consider the 10 commandments (which are a part of the Mosaic Law) God’s standard for right living as a Christian and a good thing for us to adhere to.  Our concept of victorious Christian living is to avoid wrong actions and do right ones.

But Paul referred to the 10 commandments as a ministry of death and condemnation in 2 Corinthians 3:7-9.  In this verse, he is specifically contrasting the 10 commandments (tablets of stone) and grace….. “the letter kills”, “the ministry of death” and “the ministry of condemnation” versus “the Spirit gives life”, the ministry of the Spirit … more glorious” and “the ministry of righteousness exceeds more in glory”.  He called it a ministry of condemnation because all who looked upon the holy demands were condemned as law-breakers.

He is not denying the power of the commandments, as evidenced by Romans 7:12, “Wherefore the law is holy and the commandment holy, and just, and good.”  He does, however, deny that the believer has anything to benefit by knowing those commandments.  To Timothy, Paul states, “But we know that the law is good if a man uses it lawfully; knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient…” (1 Timothy 1:8, 9). Notice that the law is not for the righteous man, and you and I are the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

God gave the 10 commandments along with the other 613 commandments known as the Mosaic Law to the Israelites (the Jewish people) not the Gentiles.  We (the church) were Gentiles who were grafted in as believers.  We were never meant to live under any part of the Law but only under grace.  Galatians 3:24 tells us that the Law was a tutor to bring us unto Christ so that we might be justified by faith.  And after faith came we would no longer be under the tutor of Law.  Galatians 3:19 says that the law was given to “shut up everyone under sin so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.”  

But it wasn’t God’s original plan for the Israelites to live under the Law either…. they were always meant to live under a covenant of grace based on faith.  In Exodus 19:5-6 God spoke through Moses to the people and said “Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’”  The people responded together, “We will do everything the LORD has commanded.”  

Notice God said, “keep My covenant.” What covenant?  In Exodus 2:24 it says God heard their groaning and He remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.  It was His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

So God gave the 10 commandments along with the rest of the Law to the children of Israel in Exodus chapters 20-23.  And the covenant…. the promise that was given to Abraham was postponed. The children of Israel now entered a new covenant called the covenant of Moses.  A covenant which required man’s participation in the area of obedience… it rested completely on man’s ability to keep/obey the conditions of the covenant. 

The covenant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was the covenant that rested totally on what God would do. It was a covenant of pure belief.  It was God plus nothing…. God made the covenant with Himself and Abraham was simply the beneficiary of that covenant.   It was purely a grace covenant… not a mixture of law and grace.  God’s blessings to Abraham’s family was based on His promises alone, not their obedience.  When the children of Israel were in the wilderness, God treated them with grace instead of as they deserved.  They were constantly murmuring and complaining but at every place they encamped in the wilderness, grace was available to them.  In fact, the word encampment in the Hebrew means “grace”…. but that’s for another blog post!

At Mt Sinai everything changed, the people now wanted to participate by doing instead of just “being”.  They said to God “whatever You say we will do.” It sounds like a good response, a right response to a Holy God.  But it wasn’t.  It was a presumptuous response rooted in self-effort, not in faith.  They replaced the covenant of rest with the covenant of laboring.  They opted for a law-based covenant where God’s blessings now hinged on their faithfulness instead of His.  They didn’t want an intimate face to face relationship with God.  They wanted a mediator to speak for them and for God.  They fell from grace!

When Moses came down the mountain with the 10 commandments written on stone, 3000 people died that day!  The Law demanded death for sin… Romans 6:23: the wages of sin is death.  But there was another mountain, Mt Zion, that resulted in 3000 people being saved (Acts 2:41).  It really comes down to 2 mountains.  Which mountain are you on?

When God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments it was at Mount Sinai, during Shavuot (Pentecost) 50 days after they had celebrated their first Passover and come out of slavery in Egypt.  When God gave the outpouring of Holy Spirit… the Spirit of Grace…. it was during Shavuot (Pentecost) 50 days after they had celebrated the last Passover with Jesus before He went to the Cross and ended 1500 years of slavery to the Law.

Hebrews 12:18-24 highlights the different natures of the two covenants by comparing these mountains — Mt Sinai and Mt Zion. The old covenant given at Mt Sinai emphasized law and the distance between man and God.  The law reminded people of their sinfulness and God’s holiness and of the need for a sacrifice to make one able to stand before God (Hebrews 10:3). Mt Zion, on the other hand, represents the place where God, the King, dwells with His people.  The Spirit of God now abides in us and continually reminds us that we are sons of God (Galatians 4:6).

So, if the Law isn’t our moral compass, what is?  Grace is our moral compass!  Titus 2:11-12 says For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men. It instructs us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions and to live sensible, upright, and godly lives in the present age.  

There is no such thing as grace-based Law.  It’s one or the other.  It’s law or grace.  Which will you choose?

~ Robin

 

 

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