Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing (epiphany) of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;  Titus 2:13

< Previous : Next >

 

 

CHAPTER II.

 

GOD'S ATTRIBUTES OF BEING.

 

DISTINCTION BETWEEN ATTRIBUTES OF BEING AND OF CHARACTER. PERSONALITY. CORPOREALITY. SPIRITUALITY. SELF­ EXISTENCE. ETERNITY. SELF-SUFFICIENCY. IMMORTALITY. INFLUENCE OF THESE SEVEN ATTRIBUTES ON THE DEVOUTLY STUDIOUS. INVISIBILITY. UNITY. OMNIPOTENCE. OMNISCIENCE. OMNIPRESENCE. SUPREMACY. UNFATHOMABLENESS. THEIR LESSONS TO US.

 

IN OUR first chapter we discussed the existence of God and showed from seven standpoints that there is a God. We mentioned, as implied in some of the proofs there presented, that God is a personal being, who has as His main heart characteristics the qualities of wisdom, power, justice and love. We made no attempt to give details on His attributes, apart from that of existence, which was our subject, because it is our thought to devote later several chapters to a discussion of His attributes. Usually His attributes are set forth from two standpoints—those of His being and those of His character. By His attributes of being are meant those of His qualities which inhere in His nature, like personality, spirituality, eternity, immortality, etc., while by His attributes of character are meant those of His qualities which inhere in His disposition, His heart and mind, like justice, love, mercy, faithfulness, etc. We now set forth in a series of chapters some of the salient features of His attributes: both of being and of character. In this chapter we will discuss His main attributes of being.

 

Naturally, the first attribute of God's being that strikes the mind of the average thoughtful man is that of God's personality. By personality we mean the quality of being by which one thinks, feels and wills; for personality lodges in the intellect, sensibilities and will. Anything without these does not have personality, and cannot be a person. God has the quality of personality which inheres in Him as a sentient being

 

28

and He is a person. This quality of God's being immediately enables us to reject: Atheism, which denies God's existence altogether; Agnosticism, which doubts God's existence; Materialism, which denies personality to the first cause; and Pantheism, which confounds God with nature. While discussing the existence of God we proved from reason His personality. This was shown from the arguments drawn from order, design, man's intellectual, moral and religious constitution, our experience and the disproof of Atheism. God's intelligence, beneficence, justice and executiveness are manifest in such proofs of His existence, which therefore prove His personality.

 

The Scriptures are replete with proofs of God's personality; for they attribute to Him intellectuality, feeling and volition—the essential elements of personality. That He has knowledge is proven by passages like: Josh. 22: 22, "The Lord God of gods … He knoweth"; Is. 44: 8, "Is there a God beside Me? Yea, there is no other God; I know not any"; Job 36: 4, "He is perfect in knowledge"; Ps. 44: 21, "He knoweth the secrets of the heart"; Matt. 6: 8, "Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him"; Luke 16: 15, "God knoweth your hearts"; Acts 15: 18, "Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world"; Rom. 8: 29, "Whom He did foreknow"; 2 Tim. 2: 19, "The Lord knoweth them that are His"; 1 John 3: 20, "God … knoweth all things." That He has sensibilities is proven by passages like: Ps. 103: 13, "The Lord pitieth them that fear Him"; John 16: 27, "The Father Himself loveth you"; Ex. 34: 6, "The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness"; Heb. 11: 5, "He pleased God"; Ps. 30: 4, "Give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness"; Ex. 20: 5, "I … and a jealous God"; Ps. 7: 9, "The righteous God trieth the heart and reins"; 1 Pet. 3: 20, "The longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah"; John 3: 16, "God

 

29

so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son"; Ps. 25: 6, "Remember, O Lord, Thy tender mercies and Thy loving kindnesses." That He exercises volition is evident from passages like Matt. 6: 10, "Thy will be done in earth"; Matt. 7: 21, "He that doeth the will of My Father"; Luke 22: 42, "Not My will, but Thine be done"; Acts 21: 14, "The will of the Lord be done"; Gal. 1: 4, "According to the will of God"; Eph. 1: 11, "All things after the counsel of His own will"; 1 Thes. 4: 3, "This is the will of God—your sanctification; 1 Cor. 12: 11, "Dividing to every man severally as He will"; Heb. 6: 17, "Willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel"; 2 Pet. 3: 9, "The Lord is … not willing that any should perish."

 

Besides these and numerous other Scriptures which ascribe to God the essential elements of personality— intellectuality, sensibilities and will—there are numerous others that describe Him in terms of personality. Of these we will quote a few: "There is none other like unto the  Lord our God" (Ex. 8: 10); "Who is like unto Thee, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like Thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?" (Ex. 15: 11); "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me" (Ex. 20: 3; Deut. 5: 7); "Thou shalt worship no other god" (Ex. 34: 14); "The Lord, He is God; there is none else beside Him" (Deut. 4: 35); "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord" (Deut. 6: 4); "The Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords" (Deut. 10: 17); "There is none holy as the Lord" (1 Sam. 2: 2); "Prepare your hearts unto the Lord and serve Him" (1 Sam. 7: 3); "Him shall ye fear, and Him shall ye worship, and to Him shall ye do sacrifice" (2 Kings 17: 36); "Thou hast made heaven and earth" (2 Kings 19: 15); "To whom then will ye liken Me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One" (Is. 40: 25); "I am the First and I am the Last; and beside me there is no God" (Is. 44: 6); "There is

 

 

30

no God else beside Me, a just God and a Savior" (Is. 45: 21); "The Lord is the true God; He is the living God, and an everlasting King" (Jer. 10: 10); "I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is there anything too hard for Me?" (Jer. 32: 27); "One is your Father, which is in heaven" (Matt. 23: 9); "This is life eternal that they might know Thee the only true God" (John 17: 3); "One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Eph. 4: 6);  "Who being the brightness of His glory, the express image of His person … sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high."—Heb. 1: 3.

 

It is important from many standpoints for us to emphasize the personality of God, especially against the materialism of certain atheistical and agnostical so-called scientists and the pantheism of certain heathenizing philosophers, which would rob us of a personal God. Belief in, love for, and communion with a personal God are necessary for development of godlikeness. Rob us of a personal God and we are robbed of the Christian faith, hope, love, peace, joy, comfort, self-control, patience, longsuffering, forgiveness and every other Christlike characteristic. Give us a personal God of the characteristics of the Scriptural God, and we are given the power that, used, will create, develop and perfect Christian faith, hope, love, peace, joy, comfort, self-control, patience, longsuffering, forgiveness and every other element of Christlikeness. Sterile in these respects is the life of the denier of a personal God; fruitful in these respects is the  life of a true worshiper of the God of the Bible—the personal Jehovah. Fundamental, therefore, for life and godliness is faith in a personal God. Therefore we have given the first place in God's attributes of being to His personality. Let us hold it at all odds as the prime essential of our religious life.

 

As the next attribute of God's being we would present that of corporeality. By this we mean that God

 

31

has a body. It is a great mistake to think of God as a great mind without a body. Neither reason nor Scripture gives us such a thought. It originated in the illusive abstractions and speculations of heathen philosophers, especially Greek philosophers, from whom it was borrowed and introduced into the creeds of the dark ages, and has become one of the means of stultifying and mystifying many of God's people in their reasonings on God's being. When we say that the Scriptures teach that God has more than a mind, that additionally He has a body, which implies His having an organism, we do not refer to those Scriptures that are undoubtedly anthropomorphistic, i.e., figuratively ascribe to God the form and parts of man. Rather we refer to statements that literally and definitely connect God with a body. When Jesus said that no man hath at any time seen God's "shape" (John 5: 37), He definitely implies that God has a body. The same thing is implied in God's statement that no man can see Him and live (Ex. 33: 20-23); for this Scripture implies that He can be seen by man, though only with fatal effects to such a beholder. If He can be seen, He must have more than a mind: He must have a body, which implies an organism. This fact is likewise implied in the statement, "God is a spirit" (John 4: 24); for St. Paul definitely tells us that spirit beings have bodies (1 Cor. 15: 44-49). All the Scriptures that speak of heaven as His  abode imply the same thing (Ps. 73: 25; Matt. 5: 16, 45; 6: 9; etc., etc.). So, too, is this apparent from the Scripture (Heb. 1: 3) that tells us that Jesus now is the express image of the Father's person. These Scriptures undoubtedly imply that God has a body.

 

When we say that God has a body, we of course do not mean that it consists of matter; for such is not the substance of which His body consists. Nor, when we say that His body is an organism, do we mean that His body has all the same organs as ours. From the nature

 

32

of the case He would have no use for many of the organs that we have. Organs and parts adapted to food, respiration, wastes, blood, etc. (1 Cor. 15: 50), He, of course, does not have, because of His self-existence, these things implying dependence on external things for existence. Because literal Scriptures ascribe corresponding acts to Him, we may reasonably assume that He has organs adapted to sight, sound, smell, touch, work, locomotion; and doubtless He has some organs the like of which we do not have, though of what they consist and like what they are, we do not know, even as St. John assures us with respect to our Lord Jesus' body, which is exactly like God's (Heb. 1: 3): "It hath not yet appeared what we shall be; but when He [Jesus] shall appear we shall be like Him"; because our spiritual bodies will "be fashioned like unto His glorious body" (Phil. 3: 21). Our knowing so little about God's body, like our little knowledge of many other things respecting Him, is largely due on the one hand to His greatness, and, on the other hand, to our littleness; for our plane of being is so far beneath His that we cannot fully comprehend Him—the finite cannot fully grasp the Infinite.

 

The third attribute of God's being that we would consider is spirituality, i.e., that God is a spirit. The Scriptures teach this by contrast with natural things (Acts 17: 29). Furthermore, they expressly assure us of this in so many words: "God is a spirit" (John 4: 24). And reason assents to the spirituality of the Being who created and preserves the universe and its creatures. God's mode of existence is not that of a being with a flesh and blood or any other kind of a material body; but His mode of existence is that of a spirit being with a spiritual body. When we speak of a spiritual body we mean one that consist of immaterial, spiritual substance or substances. There are material substances such as water, earth, iron, wood, etc., and there are spiritual substances such as vitality, fire,

 

33

light, heat, etc. When we say that God is a spirit we thereby deny that His body consists of material substances (1 Cor. 15: 50); and when we say that He is a spirit we affirm that His body consists of some spiritual substance (1 Cor. 15: 44-49). Seemingly, angels, who are spirits, have bodies that consist of fire (Heb. 1: 7, 14). Perhaps some of the higher orders of spirit beings, like cherubim and seraphim, have bodies that consist of other spiritual substances than fire. The Scriptures do not tell us of the exact nature of that substance of which God's body consists. This same remark applies to our Lord's present body and the bodies of the saints in the first resurrection.

 

The silence of the Scriptures on the nature of the substance of which God's body consists forbids our being positive on the subject, much more forbids our making a thought that we may have on the subject a doctrine of faith. Without in the least desiring to be understood as being dogmatic on this point, we might say that it would not be at all surprising, if it should turn out that God's body consists of life principle. Our reason for thinking this not unreasonable is the fact that the Bible teaches that God is immortal, i.e., has "life in Himself" (John 5: 26). If His body consists of life principle, it would not like other bodies need life principle as another substance to animate it. He being incorruptible, there is no waste in His body, and of course no replenishment of life would be needed. Hence self-sustained life would be His, if His body consists of life principle. But since we know so little of the possibilities of spiritual substances, we would not be warranted in saying that immortality could not exist in another way than in having a body consisting of life principle. Perhaps it could, for all we know. On this subject, it must be humbly confessed: "We know in part," i.e., our knowledge is piece-meal, partial. We must, therefore, recognize that the nature of the substance of which the Divine body consists is not

 

34

one of the revealed things. It is one of the secret things that God has kept to Himself. Hence we dare not be dogmatic on the subject. Nevertheless our uncertainty as to the exact kind of spiritual substance that makes up God's body does not make us uncertain that it does consist of some spiritual substance; for this fact flows from the fact that He is a spirit, which is taught in the Scriptures, notably in John 4: 24.

 

Self-existence is the next attribute of being in God that we desire to study. By God's self-existence we mean His independence from all beings, all conditions and all things for His being. It implies that He owes His existence to no one, that no one originated Him and that no one sustains Him. Nor does He owe His existence and continuance to any condition or thing. It is a part of His very nature to exist. In this He is totally different from any other being. All other beings have been dependent on some one else for their coming into existence. And even those of His creatures, like the saints, who have or yet will attain a condition of immortality, owe or will owe the conferring of this quality to God. All other beings have not only had to depend on Him for their coming into existence, but their continued existence as long as it will last depends on Him. Thus He is the only self-existent being in the universe. Reason recognizes this to be true when it demonstrates that He is the First Cause, and therefore causeless, self-existent.

 

But the Scriptures also teach this. God most solemnly announced His self-existence when He first revealed this characteristic, and that to Moses (Ex. 3: 14), by saying: "I AM THAT I AM; and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you." Again Jehovah asserts this, in the words, "I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live forever" (Deut. 32: 40). His self- existence so far as man's righteousness or sin is concerned is stated clearly: "If thou sinnest, what doest thou against

 

35

Him? … If thou be righteous, what givest thou Him? or what receiveth He of thy hand? Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art; and thy righteousness may profit a son of man" (Job 35: 6-8). Jehovah asserts His self-existence when He says of Himself, "I am the first; and I am the last; and beside me there is no God" (Is. 44: 6). He is the first and the last in the sense that He is the only being who does not owe His existence to another. All others have depended on some one else for their coming into existence. He depended on no one else for existence; for He is self- existent. The expression, first and last, is equivalent to the expression, "the only one," i.e., in the sense suggested by the connection in which it is used. Thus when Jesus uses of Himself this expression, "the first and the last" (Rev. 1: 11), He gives us the thought that He was the only one directly begotten by God. All others were indirectly made by God, i.e., through Jesus (John 1: 3; Col. 1: 15-17). But the sense in which Jehovah is "the first and the last"—the only one— evidently is, among other things, that of self-existence. What a wonderful being He is by reason of His self- existence!

 

Closely related to His attribute of self-existence is another attribute of being in God—eternity. Some would have us think that there is no duration to eternity. They contrast it with time, as though it were timeless. Such a thought is distinctly unscriptural and is derived from heathen sources, especially from the heathen Greek philosophers, whose views were adopted and introduced into "the creeds of the dark ages." As the Scriptures teach it: Eternity is time without beginning and without ending. Thus duration is involved in the idea of eternity. Even reason is compelled to assent to the fact that time could have had no beginning and can have no end; for we cannot reason back to a time which was not preceded by time. If we reason back billions of years, we still can say that time

 

36

was before that. Again, if we reason back billions of years back of that, we still can say that time was before that; and thus we could go back an infinitude of billions of years, and still could say that there was time before that. Thus we are compelled to conclude that time had no beginning, that time has always been, i.e., that there is a past to eternity. The same is true with reference to future time. It cannot end; it must go on forever. We cannot imagine a future time that will not have time after that time. Thus time is without beginning and without ending, always has been and always will be. This is eternity. Let us have done with the absurdity that eternity is a thing in which there is no time— no duration. There is, of course, a contrast between the transient and the eternal (2 Cor. 4: 18). But to contrast time and eternity, so as to make the former imply duration and the latter exclude it, is an unscriptural and an unreasonable thing—nonsense.

 

Both reason and Scripture teach that God is eternal— without beginning and without ending. That reason teaches this is evident from the fact that it teaches that God is the first cause, therefore causeless, and therefore eternal. Many are the testimonials of the Bible on this subject. A few of these we will quote: "The eternal God is thy refuge; and underneath are the everlasting arms" (Deut. 33: 27); "Neither can the number of His years be searched out" (Job 36: 26); "Blessed is the Lord God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting" (Ps. 41: 13); "Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations … even from everlasting to everlasting Thou art God" (Ps. 90: 1, 2); "Thy throne is established of old; thou art from everlasting" (Ps. 93: 2); "Thy years shall have no end" (Ps. 102: 27); "The High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity" (Is. 57: 15); "He is the living God, and an everlasting King" (Jer. 10: 10); "Art Thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God?" (Hab. 1: 12); "The invisible things [attributes] of Him from the

 

37

creation of the world are clearly seen … His eternal power and deity" (Rom. 1: 20); "Unto the King eternal … the only God" (1 Tim. 1: 17, A. R. V.); "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come … who liveth for ever and ever" (Rev. 4: 8, 9); "O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be" (Rev. 16: 5). Thus we see that the Scriptures teach that God is eternal—without beginning and without ending. It affords Him abundance of time for the display of His character and works throughout the universe. This is indeed a sublime characteristic in God as a being. It certainly calls for our appreciation, veneration, adoration and worship.

 

Somewhat related to God's self-existence is another attribute of His being—self-sufficiency. By God's self- sufficiency is meant His independence from every person, thing or condition, for His continued existence, happiness and well-being. God is dependent on nothing, but everything existing is dependent on Him for continued existence. He needs nothing to support His existence. He would have been happy and would have been in well-being, had He never created anyone or anything. He is thus in and of Himself sufficient for existence, happiness and well­ being. His reason for bringing creation into existence was not His need of creation, but His desire to bless creatures. His pleasure in dispensing blessing, and not any need of others on His part was, therefore, His reason for His works of creation. St. Paul testifies to this feature of God's being: "Neither is He worshiped [served, prospered] with men's hands, as though He needed anything, seeing He giveth to all life and breath and all things" (Acts 17: 25). His independence from man is expressed in a passage already quoted which we will quote again because of its pertinency: "If thou sinnest, what doest thou against Him? … If thou be righteous, what givest thou Him? or what receiveth He of thy hand? Thy wickedness may hurt a man as

 

38

thou art; and thy righteousness may profit a son of man" (Job 35: 6-8). These Scriptures prove God's independence from all persons, things and conditions. No person or combination of persons, no thing or combination of things, no condition or combination of conditions, can make Him dependent in any sense. He maintains His self-sufficiency with respect to all persons, things and conditions. Thus God is absolutely free from dependence. He is in the highest sense independent—He is self-sufficient. This does not make Him proud, haughty or overbearing; but it does give Him that freedom which is compatible with His nature, position and attributes, and leaves Him the freedom to do for others from favor and not from dependence, for their good and not for His personal gain, for their ennoblement and happiness and not from some need of His. This is, of course, what we should expect in a great God, and certainly draws out toward Him our devotion as we contemplate His greatness as displayed in His self-sufficiency.

 

An attribute of God's being somewhat related to His self-existence and self-sufficiency, is His immortality. Immortality is a death-proof condition—a condition in which death is impossible. It stands in contrast with mortality, which signifies a condition in which death is possible. Mortality does not mean a condition that must result in, death, but a condition in which one can die—a dieable condition. The fact that Adam died is surest proof that he was not immortal, but that he was mortal. But while mortal in His creation, he could have lived forever, which he would have done had he continued to eat of the life- preserving foods in Eden (Gen. 3: 22). So, too, Satan is mortal, because he is some day to die (Heb. 2: 14; Is. 27: 1; Gen. 3: 15; Rom. 16: 20). Hence we conclude that all angels are mortal. The restitution class, though having eternal life, will be mortal, as the human Jesus was. These considerations prove that mortal beings must not necessarily

 

39

die. As a matter of fact, only Divine beings are immortal (1 Tim. 6: 16). It is for this reason that the Church as heirs of the Divine nature (2 Pet. 1: 4) are promised immortality (1 Cor. 15: 53, 54). Jesus has given us a happy definition of immortality—"life in Himself" (John 5: 26). Life in one's self implies that one has a body that is dependent on nothing for sustenance, i.e., a depository of an inexhaustible supply of life, which can live under any and every condition or under any and every combination of conditions, from which nothing can separate life and nothing can diminish life. God is the original depository of such a life, and promised it first of all to Jesus on condition of His faithfulness unto death (John 5: 26, 27); and has in Christ promised it to the overcoming Church (1 John 3: 1, 2; 1 Tim. 6: 16; Phil. 3: 2; 1 Cor. 15: 53, 54; Rom. 2: 7). But He has promised it to no one else.

 

That God is immortal several Scriptures prove. We will quote a few of these: "As the Father hath life in Himself" (John 5: 26); "Now to the King eternal, immortal … the only God" (1 Tim. 1: 17). This means that God cannot die. We can die. It is rather easy to bring about the death of a human being. By drowning, choking, bleeding, crushing, striking, starving, burning, gassing, infecting, poisoning, etc—, death can be inflicted on man. But nothing can be done to God and nothing can be withheld from Him that could cause His death. He can without the least discomfort be in fire, under water, under the soil, outside of the atmosphere, in exploding TNT, in extreme cold, in a vacuum, or in any other condition. None of these things could diminish His life or separate it from His body. He is absolutely death-proof, and proof against the least diminution of life—He is immortal, has "life in Himself."

 

Thus far we have considered seven of God's attributes of being. The seven above discussed will surely help us better to understand what a wonderful and

 

40

great being God is. Their devout study greatly enhances our appreciation of Him, and leads us to venerate Him as worthy of the fullest adoration, praise and worship of our hearts. The greatness of these attributes of being are in varied details beyond our ability to grasp; but they all incite us to stand in reverence and awe before Him who is infinite and perfect in all His attributes. And the fact that this great Being condescends to offer to fellowship with us and to draw us to Him is the highest possible honor that could be conferred upon us, and surely should stir us up to reciprocate in the same spirit. "O come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker" (Ps. 95: 6); for it is comely so to do; and praise is fitting to the upright.

 

We continue our study on God's attributes of being with the discussion of God's invisibility, as an eighth quality of His being. Invisibility means sight-proof,—the quality by which it is impossible to be seen. When we say that God is invisible, we do not mean that He cannot be seen by any beings at all; for such a proposition would directly contradict the Scripture wherein Jesus says of the saints' guardian angels, "In heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father" (Matt. 18: 10). From this Scripture we infer that all spirit beings can see God, who Himself is a spirit. Therefore He is not invisible to all beings, i.e., He is not invisible in the absolute sense of the word. To what kind of creatures He is invisible we learn from a passage which teaches that our Lord in His glorified body is invisible. The passage in question is 1 Tim. 6: 16. In its pertinent part it reads as follows: "whom no man hath seen, nor can see." Hence God is invisible to animal beings, like man and the lower creation. But some may object that this passage treats of our Lord Jesus and not of God Himself, and that therefore we should not infer from it that God is invisible to animal beings including man. To this we reply that the Bible

 

41

teaches that our Lord's glorified body is the very image of the Father's person (literally substance). Therefore if the Son's body is invisible to all animal beings, certainly the body of which it is the very image must also be invisible to all animal beings, and thus to man.

 

Some, however, may object to our Lord's glorified body as being invisible to man, on the ground that He appeared to Saul of Tarsus on the way to Damascus. We agree that Jesus did appear to Saul of Tarsus on the way to Damascus, and by such appearance changed him from a persecutor to a believer and apostle; but we deny that Saul saw our Lord's glorified body. What he saw was a representation, a "vision," of our Lord's body; for this he himself said was the thing that he saw (Acts 26: 19). A vision is not the real thing, but a representation of it. Thus when St. Peter saw the sheet with all manners of beasts descending from heaven, he saw a representation of Jews (the clean animals of the vision) and Gentiles (the unclean animals of the vision), not Jews and Gentiles themselves as such. When St. Paul saw the man of Macedonia calling, "Come over and help us," he did not see a real Macedonian, but a representation of one. Thus, too, St. John in Revelation saw not real dragons, beasts, cities, etc., but representations of them—visions of them. Thus in visions not the real things, but representations of the real things are seen. Hence we conclude that since St. Paul calls what he saw on the way to Damascus a vision, he did not see our Lord's real body. This we know to be a fact, because he himself spoke thus  of our glorified Lord: "whom no man hath seen, nor can see" (1 Tim. 6: 16). He could not truthfully have said this, had he actually seen our Lord's body. The thing that he actually saw was the glory light that shines out of our Lord's body as one of its inseparable qualities (Acts 26: 13­ 18); and this light would most fittingly represent our Lord's body, and therefore could be called Jesus with even greater

 

42

pertinency than we call the communion bread the Lord's body, because it represents His body. Thus the two objections urged by some against God's invisibility fall to the ground.

 

Accordingly we conclude that God, while not invisible to spirit beings, is invisible to animal beings. The reason for this is self-evident: natural eyes have not the qualities that would enable them to see a spirit being. It requires a special miracle on natural eyes even to enable them to see the light that shines out of a spirit body, as the case of Saul proves; and in the case of the highest order of spirit bodies—the Divine bodies—even despite a miracle, the eyes are blinded before they can penetrate through the dazzling light to the body from which the light comes, as Saul's experience proves. So great was Saul's consequent blindness that to restore him thereafter to even imperfect sight a miracle was necessary (Acts 9: 12, 17, 18). Paul's imperfect sight thereafter seems to have been his famous thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12: 7). Paul's experience in seeing the light shining out from our Lord's body, coupled with the remark of Jehovah, "no man can see Me [the light shining out of My body, representing Me] and live," implies that the light shining out of God's body is even brighter than that which shines out of our Lord's glorified body; for while the light of the Latter's body did not kill, but only blinded Saul, nobody could survive the sight of the light shining forth from God's body (Ex. 33: 18, 20, 23). Notice, please, how

in Ex. 33: 18, 20, 23, the glory [the light shining out of God's body] of the Lord is spoken of as Himself and His face. This is because it is a representation of them. God's majesty and our littleness are manifest from the Bible doctrine of God's invisibility.

 

A brief consideration of a few other Scriptures treating on God's invisibility would be appropriate after the above explanations of it. God's invisibility is implied in the statement of Deut. 4: 15, "Ye [Israel]

 

43

saw no manner of similitude on the day that Jehovah spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire." Likewise His invisibility is implied in the statement of His dwellings in the thick darkness, in 1 Kings 8: 12: "The Lord said that He would dwell in the thick darkness." Clearly man's inability to see Him even while He is near man is set forth in Job 9: 11: "Lo, He goeth by me, and I see Him not; He passeth on also, but I perceive Him not." How realistically this quality in God is described in Job 23: 8, 9: "Behold, I go forward, but He is not seen; and backward, but I cannot perceive Him; on the left hand, where He doth work, but I cannot behold Him; He hideth Himself on the right hand, that I cannot see Him." This is poetically stated in Ps. 18: 11 and 97: 2: "He made darkness His secret place; His pavilion round about Him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies." "Clouds and darkness are round about Him." John states it literally as a matter of man's universal experience (John 1: 18): "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared [revealed] Him [to our eyes of understanding by His teachings]." Jesus, also, first states it literally as a fact of Israel's universal experience (John 5: 37): "Ye have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His shape"; then He later states it as man's universal experience (John 6: 46): "Not that any man hath seen the Father, save He which is of God, He hath seen the Father." St. Paul uses the very term of God in several passages: Col. 1: 15—"who [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature"; 1 Tim. 1: 17—"unto the King … invisible, the only God [A.R.V.], be honor and glory for ever and ever"; Heb. 11: 27—"he [Moses] endured, as seeing Him who is invisible." These Scriptures one and all prove God to have invisibility to animal creatures as one of His attributes of being.

 

44

The next attribute of God's being that will engage our attention is His unity. By His unity we understand that quality of God whereby He is one being, one individual, and no more or less than one being. Though He has many qualities of being and character, though He has divers operations and manifestations, in each of them and in all of them He is but one being, one individual—not many or few, but only one. The Scriptures set forth this thought most explicitly, both by direct statement and by direct contrast, and also both positively and negatively. So pointed are their expressions in these respects that they leave no doubt in a sober and clear mind as to their teaching on His unity. The reason that God has so greatly stressed His unity of being, i.e., that He is an individual, is the wide prevalence of polytheism in the world during and since the days of the Bible. The religions of the heathen world, ancient, medieval and modern, have all taught a plurality of gods, emphasizing as supreme among these three individuals, e.g., among the Romans: Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto. Corresponding to these three under different names are found three supreme gods in the Egyptian, Babylonian, Indian, Chinese, Greek, Germanic, etc., religions. Desirous of preserving the Truth inviolate among His people on the doctrine of the Supreme Being's unity, God over and over again emphasizes the thought that He is but one individual, and that in the sense in which He is God there is no other. Thus God overthrows the heathen doctrine that there are three co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial gods with a multitude of inferior gods.

 

Let us look at some of the most pointed of the Scriptures teaching God's unity: The classic passage of them all is Deut. 6: 4: "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord." The following is a still more literal translation, and states the thought still more clearly: "Hear, O Israel: Jehovah is our God; Jehovah is one." Certainly this is a sublimely simple statement

 

45

of the unity of God. Let us hold it up in pointed contradiction to heathen and heathenizing polytheism. How direct and pointed is 1 Kings 8: 60 in its assertion of Jehovah's sole deity: "That all the people of the earth may know that Jehovah is God, and that there is none else." How mighty is God's protest against polytheism as false, with its image representations of its deities, in Is. 42: 8: "I am Jehovah [the self-existent one]; that is My name; and My Glory [of supremacy] will I not give to another [god], neither my praise to graven images." In the following passage, John 17: 3, Jesus emphasizes with all-exclusive and contrasted terms God's sole deity and Himself as the supreme Messenger of this sole Deity: "This is [the purpose of] life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true [genuine, real] God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent." Notice, please, how in the following passage, 1 Cor. 8: 4-6, St. Paul stresses Jehovah's sole deity, and then how he contrasts on the one hand the many heathen gods with the one true God, and on the other hand the many heathen lords with the one true Lord: "There is none other God but one; for though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, as there be gods many and lords many; but to us there is but one God, the Father, … and one Lord, Jesus Christ." Could we put the contrasts more pointedly and tersely than is done by the Apostle in this passage? Again the same Apostle stresses God's sole deity in Gal. 3: 20: "Now a mediator is not a mediator of one [i.e., if there is only one person involved in a transaction, there can be no such a thing as a person acting as mediator; for a mediator implies that there are at least two other persons involved in a transaction, between whom he acts as a mediator]; but God is one [singular, not plural]." 1 Tim. 2: 5 is also to the point: "There is one God [hence not more than one], and one mediator between God and men." Here our Lord Jesus, who is the Mediator

 

46

of the New Covenant, is presented as the Mediator between the one God and sinful man. In the following passage, James 2: 19, we are commended, if we believe in the sole deity of God: "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well." Here also belong 1 Tim. 1: 17 (A. R. V.) and Jude 25 (A. R. V.). The contrast between the only God and one Lord Jesus is emphatic. The above Scriptures stress mightily the teaching that there is but one God—Jehovah supreme above all others, whom it is our privilege to make supreme in our lives. To do this we must approach Him by the only way of access to Him, Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, the Savior and Lord, by repentance toward God, faith in our Lord Jesus and entire consecration to His will. With those who so do, this only God enters into covenant relations on lines of the Oath-bound Covenant (Gen. 22: 16-18). And He gives them as one of their works the privilege of vindicating His sole deity as against all heathen and heathenizing beliefs in a plurality of Gods.

 

We are not to understand that the passages which call the saints gods (Ps. 82: 6; John 10: 34) and the good and bad angels gods (Ps. 8: 5; 97: 7; comp. Heb. 1: 6)  contradict the thought of God's sole deity. This will be clear when we understand that the Hebrew word elohim and the Greek word theoi, translated gods, and meaning mighty ones, are applicable to any mighty one, be he man, angel, our Lord, or God Himself. Thus these words, used in their general sense, can apply to any mighty one; but when used in their specific sense they apply to Jehovah alone, i.e., in the sense in which He as the Supreme Being is God no one else is God. Thus there is perfect harmony between the doctrine that Jehovah, the Supreme Being, alone is God and is but one, and the Scriptural teaching that there are many gods in the sense of mighty beings. It is for this reason that the deities of the heathen are Scripturally called gods, mighty ones, for they as the

 

47

demons, the fallen angels, are indeed mighty (Deut. 32: 16, 17; 1 Cor. 10: 20; 8: 5). Our investigation thus proves that God is one and not more than one being or individual. Him we delight to serve.

 

The next attribute of being in God to engage our attention is His omnipotence. Omnipotence has been defined as the ability to do anything. Such a definition is, we think, too broad; for the Scriptures clearly teach that there are some things that God cannot do, e.g., He cannot lie (Heb. 6: 18); He cannot deny Himself (2 Tim. 2: 13); He cannot commit, nor favor, nor be tempted to sin (Hab. 1: 13; Jas. 1: 13). In a word, God cannot do anything contrary to His character. So also it would be untrue to say that God can unmake a past event, i.e., make an accomplished fact unfactual; though He can prevent any event from occurring, or neutralize its effects after it has occurred, but once it has occurred, He cannot make it not a fact. These illustrations prove that it is wrong to define God's omnipotence as His ability to do anything. Nor do the Scriptures so define it. The nearest definition of God's omnipotence given us in the Bible is the following, found in Ps. 115: 3: "Our God is in the heavens; He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased" (See also Ps. 135: 6). This passage teaches that God can do anything that He desires. The reason that He cannot commit, nor favor, nor be tempted to sin, cannot lie and cannot deny Himself, is that He does not desire to do these things. His character so loves righteousness and hates wrong that he cannot desire to do these things. Knowing  the end from the beginning, He would not wait until an undesired event had occurred, when it would be impossible to make it a nonevent; He would beforehand have prevented its occurrence, were it unwanted by Him. In view of these facts we would therefore define  God's omnipotence as His ability to do anything that He desires to do. No power or combination of powers, be they ever so

 

48

strong, can prevent His carrying out His determinations, even as He has said: "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure. I have spoken it, I will also bring it  to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it" (Is. 46: 10, 11; see also Job 23: 13, 14). "There is none that can deliver out of My hand; I will work, and who shall let [prevent] it?" (Is. 43: 13). In the light of the foregoing definitions, we are to understand the passages which say that God can do everything and that nothing is impossible with Him to imply the limitation expressed in the clause, "that He desires to do." Thus this clause should be understood as occurring in Job 42: 2 "Thou canst do everything [that Thou desirest]"; in Matt. 19: 26: "With God all things [that He desires to do] are possible"; and in Luke 1: 37: "For with God nothing [that He desires to do] is impossible."

 

Having seen what is meant by God's omnipotence or almightiness, let us look at some more passages that prove that this is one of His attributes of being, and that it is active in His marvelous works and ways. He calls Himself almighty in Gen. 17: 1: "I am the Almighty God." Gen. 18: 14 affirms that nothing that He desires to do is beyond His ability to do. "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" That He has had and will always have such power is affirmed in Is. 26: 4: "In the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength." So,  too, is God's omnipotence, almightiness, expressly affirmed in Rev. 19: 6 and 21: 22. His power is not taxed in the least in His greatest conflicts with His enemies (Ex. 15: 6-12). It will never shrink to proportions disabling Him from accomplishing His ends (Num. 11: 23). No one can reverse His purpose (Num. 23: 20). It is greater by far than the combined power of all others (Deut. 3: 24). His might causes all to tremble (Deut. 7: 27). He has the power of life and death, from whom as such none can deliver, and who will undo all His enemies (Deut. 32: 39; 1 Sam. 2: 6, 7, 10).

 

 

< Previous : Next >

 

 

Page#