Thursday, December 28, 2023

Post #29 The Doctrine of God - P2 An Introduction To Divine Impassibility (God's Constant, Unchanging Emotional Life): How Divine Impassibility Is Related To His Immutability



    In our last post for this series we introduced readers to the doctrine of Divine impassibility (DDI) here When we talk of this attribute, theologian J.I. Packer helps us out,

"What was it supposed to mean? The historical answer is: Not impassivity, unconcern, and impersonal detachment in the face of the creation. Not inability or unwillingness to empathize with human pain and grief, either. It means simply that God’s experiences do not come upon him as ours come upon us." 

Packer then writes,

"His are foreknown, willed, and chosen by himself, and are not involuntary surprises forced on him from outside, apart form his own decision, in the way that ours regularly are."

    The reader will note that J.I.Packer alludes to the relationship between DDI (Doctrine of Divine Impassibility) and the question of whether or not God suffers along with us. I'll touch upon that particular issue in the next post. 

    What we will note from Packer's observations is how God is "not surprised" nor "caught off guard". In the previous post of this series, we noted how human beings as "passive" agents in the emotional sense have the potential to be affected and changed emotionally from the outside. 

    To put it colloquially, we are an "up-and-down" folk. God, on the other hand, is constant in His emotional life. For God, there is no such thing as a "bad day", since within His own being and eternal blessed existence, He knows all things that happen because of His decree. In such a decree, God's intutive awareness of all there is and all there will be includes a constant, steady, appropriate emotional state. By not having "ups and downs" and not being "affected", this makes God's Divine impassibility a superior emotional-life, since we can trust that whatever happens in our world, our God always knows the appropriate response - since such emotional expressions are rooted in His goodness, Sovereignty, and wisdom. 

    In today's post, we want to understand how DDI is closely related to another doctrine which I've written about in this series - Divine immutability here  

God's unchangeability and His emotional impassibility

    God is unchanging in His being and attributes, which means He can never get better nor get worse. The Westminster Confession of Faith in its Article 2: "Of God and the Holy Trinity", paragraph 1, gives a summary definition of God with a list of attributes. The reader can note how God's Divine impassibility is listed next to Divine immutability,

"There is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutableimmense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free,o most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal most just and terrible in his judgments; hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty."

    Scriptures such as Malachi 3:6 and Hebrews 1:8-11 talk about Divine unchangeableness or immutability. It would seem that in the Malachi 3:6 passage, God's impassible or eternal love for His chosen people (Deuteronomy 7:7-8), Israel, whom He foreknew (Amos 3:3-4), was why He never "consumed them" as an outworking of His unchangeable character. Since it is the case that God does not change His nature and attributes, it follows that He would not vary when it comes to His emotional life. 

    Author Barry Cooper in the December 2021 issue of Ligonier "Tabletalk Magazine" notes on this very point,

"If you think about it, God’s impassibility flows inevitably from the fact that God is unchangeable. An unchanging God cannot, by definition, have passions, which in the technical language of theology are emotional states that can be affected or changed by external forces."

    We dealt in the last post with a few Scriptures that affirm the Biblical reality of Divine impassibility. It is important to bring out this point futher, Why? Two reasons. 

    First, if it can be shown that God internally changes when acted upon by His creation, then DDI would lose its claim as a Biblical doctrine. 

    Secondly, we must understand how the Bible talks about God to see how the doctrines of Divine immutability and impassibility accurately express the Biblical doctrine of God. 

Clarifying the Biblical language of God changing His emotions
   Some people will claim that God changes His being and His emotions by noting the passages that describe God as "relenting" or "changing His mind". The conclusion typically drawn is that such a God does change. As the argument goes, since God changes, then He alters His emotions too. Consequently, as the argument would follow, DDI is an unbiblical doctrine. 

    My response to this is to note that often, such objections to DDI stem from unclear definitions of DDI (which I have attempted to clarify in the last post and at the beginning of this one). 

    Secondly, DDI has ample proof from Scripture when we note how the Bible uses two ways of talking about God. It is to this point I'll turn our attention.

So what does the Bible mean when it says "God changed His mind", even though it elsewhere describes God as unchanging?

1. Scripture does present God as unchanging in terms of His being while using figurative language when expressing His "changing His mind".

     Scripture says that on several occasions (for instance in the book of Jonah), that Jonah is talking to God in chapter three of His prophecy. Jonah said something to the effect: "I knew that you were a God who would change your mind".  Jonah had been told by God to proclaim throughout the city of Nineveh in three days God was going to judge them. Then, the King of Nineveh decreed a time of repentance where everyone was to dress in sackcloth and sit on ashes (a customary ancient form of mourning) and cry out to God for repentance. 

    Jonah notes in Jonah 4:1-2 that God changed His mind.  So, some people have asked: "well, how can that be the case?" We read, for instance, in Numbers 23:19 

"God is not a man that he should change his mind nor son of man that he should repent". 

      Yet, there in the book of Jonah, we see God changing his mind.  Although God is by nature unchanging, we see instances in scripture where we see him described as changing his mind that is referring to God from the standpoint of the creatures. What is going on then? 

2. God, in Scripture, uses two different methods of expressing His nature and identity.

      Scripture talks of God in two ways. There are those verses that speaks of God as He is in and of Himself - namely, He's unchanging. Then, there are those verses in which God adapts the revelation of Himself in forms of figurative language to bridge understanding to His people (older writers liken this to a parent speaking baby-talk to their child).
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      As to the first sort of way scripture refers to God, we turn to James 1:17, which says - 

"every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of heavenly lights with whom there is no variation nor shifting of shadow." 

      So, with respect to God from God's perspective, there is no change within Him. His emotions are constant. They are "always-on", so-to-speak. God's emotional life is unvarying. Romans 2:4 says this: 

"do you think lightly of the riches of his kindness and tolerance and patience, knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance". 

      So, we understand that it is God's intention to change people and to change their lives. So whenever we read in scripture those places where God is described as "changing his mind", that is, figurative language used in scripture to ascribe changeable human-like emotions to God (called "anthropopathism", or "human-like emotions"). God does this in revealing Himself  by adapting the revelation of Himself to people so that they can relate to Him. 

       The author A.W. Tozer puts it this way, more-or-less:

"that whenever we read of God changing his mind that means there's been a change in the moral situation of the person. So, for example, a person who perhaps all their lives was in rebellion against God and opposition against God hears the Gospel. The Spirit of God does His work in them and now they're responding by faith to Jesus Christ. What has taken place? Has there been a change in God? No. God's always angry at sin and He hates it. God is always gracious and merciful towards those who repent. So what's changed? It's not God. Instead, its the person that's changed." 

3. God has an emotional-life without the frailties and sin we typically have because of what kind of God He is by nature. 

     Sometimes I have been asked: how is it that God can have an emotional life and yet we have emotions? First of all, we've been made in the image of God.  We read in Genesis 1:26 where God says: "Let Us make man in our image in our likeness." 

    And so when God made human beings, He included in His design of human beings that they were to have emotions. Moreover, they were to have a creaturely emotions that were expressive of their Creator.  Of course, when man fell into sin, that meant that the entire nature of man's being (emotionally, psychologically, intellectually) was affected by sin. 

    We as human beings have "passible" emotions, subject to change. As sinful creatures, those changeable emotions are tainted by sin. Although God has communicated emotions to us, His image bearers, the one feature He did not communicate is that trait of "impassibility". 

    Thus, God's emotional life derives from within Himself. He as a Holy God cannot sin, nor can He even look at it (Habakkuk 1:13). Therefore, God's impassible emotional life means He is always joyful about what is good, since He is good. He always approves what is holy, since He is holy. He always hates what is sinful, since He is not sinful. God's emotions flow from the kind of God He is, unchanging, constant, without beginning and without end. This gets us to the heart of what we are talking about in regards to the doctrine of Divine impassibility (DDI). 

Closing thoughts

        So, emotions in of themselves are not sinful.  Rather, they are expressed in connection with the nature of the one that expresses them. For God, God has emotions that are expressed without sin because He is God, that by nature, cannot sin (see Habakkuk 1:13; Titus 1:2; James 1:17; 1 John 1:5-7).  

    We express emotions and they are subject to change. We respond to the changes of circumstances.  Just because God has emotions, it doesn't necessarily mean that they are sinful. As a final thought, Scripture certainly bears out that God has an emotional life, even though it is different from our own."
    In our next post we will deal with the question of whether God suffers, and how Christ in His two natures can aid us in seeing the importance of affirming the doctrine of Divine impassibility. 

Friday, December 22, 2023

Considering The Importance Of The Incarnation As We Get Ready To Celebrate December 25th



    Next to God's act of creation and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, no miracle is more central to the Christian faith than the incarnation of the Son of God. In today's post, we want to define, reflect, and gain appreciation for the doctrine of the incarnation of the Son of God.

A study on the word "incarnation".

    The term itself is composed of two Latin words: "in" and "carnos". To take the latter term first, "carnos" refers to "flesh". When I was in grade school, they would sometimes serve what was called "chilli con carne" (chili with meat). If we talk about the animal kingdom, we will refer to some animals as "carnivors" (literally "flesh eaters"). As for the prefix "in", much like our English preposition "in", refers to coming to be "in" something. 

    Therefore, whenever we talk about the miracle of the incarnation, it refers to the Son of God coming into the world to become "in-the-flesh" (older theologians would sometimes call the incarnation by another term, "the enmanning"of the Son of God). 

Unpacking the theological meaning of the incarnation.

    The Baptist Confession 1689, chapter 8, paragraph 2, gives the following explanation of the doctrine of the incarnation,

"The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father's glory, of one substance and equal with Him who made the world, who upholds and governs all things He has made, did, when the fullness of time was complete, take upon Him man's nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities of it, yet without sin."

   Benjamin Keach produced a catechism in 1693 that, through a series of questions and answers, taught foundational truths of the Christian faith. Keach rooted his catechism in the Baptist Confession of 1689 quoted above. In question #25 of his catechism, Keach noted about Christ's incarnation as follows,

Question: "How did Christ, being the Son of God become man?"

Answer: "Christ the Son of God became man by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul; being conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin."

    In light of these two historic documents,we can offer the following summary: The Son, being truly God, joined to himself true humanity, with all its qualities, minus sin. 

Major Biblical passages that speak of the incarnation

Key Old Testament texts on the incarnation

    As I think on the various Biblical passages that lead to the doctrine of the incarnation, the place to begin is Genesis 3:15, 

"And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” 

Theologians refer to this text as the "protoevangelium" (the first mention of the Gospel). The ages-long battle between the two "seeds" is taken to refer strictly to Satan and Christ, and then more broadly to the battle of the ages between unbelievers swayed by this world and followers of Jesus who look forward to the world to come. The epic battle predicted in Genesis 3:15 would reach the point of Christ's defeat of Satan at the cross and empty tomb. In what will be the final battle of Armegeddon predicted in Revelation 13-19, Christ will slay Satan's man (thus the ultimate expression of "the seed of the serpent", "Anti-Christ", by the breath of His mouth at His second coming (see also 2 Thessalonians 2:8). 

    Whenever reference is made to "seed"', a close synonym is the term "descendant". So, even in the first mention of the Gospel, we already find a hint of God utilizing a human bloodline (hence in the phrase "her seed") to bring about salvation. 

    Another Old Testament text that predicted Christ's incarnation is Isaiah 7:14, 

"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel." 

    Isaiah wrote these words over 700 years before Christ came onto the scene. In Matthew and Luke's infancy narratives concerning Jesus, they both cite Isaiah 7:14 to express how the Holy Spirit would miraculously bring about the humanity of Christ in the virgin's womb (see Matthew 1:20-23 and Luke 1:35). 

    Then a final Old Testament text worthy of mention is Micah 5:2-3 

But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity. 3 Therefore He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of His brethren will return to the sons of Israel." 

    What makes Micah's prophecy so important is that we not only see the Messiah's place of birth (Bethlehem); but also He being truly God and truly man. 

Key New Testament texts on the incarnation

    Again, to remind ourselves of our summary definition of the incarnation,  "the Son, being truly God, joined to himself true humanity, with all its qualities, minus sin", we turn our attention to some New Testament examples. The above Old Testament texts affirm the promise of incarnation. What follows are New Testament texts which explain the fact of Christ's incarnation. 

    We begin by first considering the Gospel accounts. Matthew 1:20b-21, 

“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 

Luke 1:35,

"The angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.'" 

John 1:14,

"And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth."

    From these three passages,  we are told "that" the incarnation took place in time and in space. hat we're not told is "how exactly" the Holy Spirit miraculously joined the humanity of Christ to His Person (what theologians call "the hypostatic union", that is, the uniting of the Person of the Son to a human nature, who already was and still remained truly God by nature).  

    The remainder of the New Testament passages on the incarnation are found in the New Testament letters or "epistles".  Paul writes in Colossians 2:9,

"For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form." 

The same author pens the following words in Philippians 2:8, 

"Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." 

The same Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 3:16a 

“By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh.” 

Either Paul himself or one of his associates noted in Hebrews 10:5b, 

“Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, 'Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, but a body You have prepared for Me.”' 

The Apostle Peter stated in 1 Peter 2:22,

“who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth.” 

    One more text is worthy of mention, since it connects back to Genesis 3:15, namely the words of the Apostle John in Revelation 12:5 

"And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne." 

    In striking brevity, John the Apostle records how Christ in His incarnation and virgin birth came the first time, ascended into Heaven, and is returning to set up His Kingdom here on earth. Note in the wider context of Revelation 12 how Satan battles to prevent the arrival of the Son of God into history - and fails. Note also how Satan will once again try to thwart the Son's return to set up His kingdom - and fail. 

Applying the importance of the incarnation as we prepare to celebrate December 25

    The incarnation of the Son of God is the focal point of this Christmas season. The truth of the incarnation, established by Scripture, has been confessed by Bible-believing churches throughout the ages, as seen in the following excerpt from the historic Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381 A.D.,

"I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man."

  Christ's coming into our world was necessary to provide salvation and the foundation for the Christian life. Followers of Jesus look forward to His soon return. 

    For unbelievers, the incarnation of Jesus Christ makes history and humanity accountable to repent and believe the Gospel message about Him. Truth by its very nature demands a response.  Author Kevin Zuber in his book, "The Essential Scriptures: A Handbook of Biblical Texts For Key Doctrines", notes this on page 132:

"The only reason to include such a doctrine so contrary to nature and experience is that this was the truth about His birth." 

    The reality of Christ's incarnation is what made possible two other historic events to which everyone is accountable to respond by faith - His crucifxion for our sins and His rising from the dead. To paraphrase one notable thinker: "if it is even possible that God exists, and if this God created all that we know out of nothing, then events such as the raising of a dead man to life" (and we could easily include the incarnation) "is mere child's play." Taking time to focus on the incarnation enables us to focus on the true meaning of the season. I close with a familiar Christmas carol,

"O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, Christ - The LORD."

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Post #28 The Doctrine of God - God's Constant Unchanging Emotional Life: An Introduction To The Doctrine of Divine Impassibility (DDI)


    In our series on "The Doctrine of God", we've considered attributes of God that pertain to His emotional life. We looked, for instance, at God's wrath here We also look at other attributes that express God's emotional life, such as love here and here Then most recently, we began exploring God's attribute of mercy, starting here and here

    When we look at God's wrath, love, mercy, as well as other emotional attributes, are we to understand God's emotional life as a bigger version of our own? What is His emotional life like? Does God have an emotional life? Is God devoid of emotions altogether, with things like "mercy", "love", and "wrath" mere words that have no connection to Him? These questions represent inquiries that abound when getting into conversations about a doctrine that addresses God's emotional life - The Doctrine of Divine Impassibility (DDI for short). 

    I'll let the reader know that the doctrine of Divine impassibility (DDI from here forward), has been unliked for the last century or so. Part of this is due to the term "impassible" itself. Also, the opposition stems from major shifts in rejecting the classical historic Christian doctrine of God that asserts God's unchangeability in His nature, attributes, and emotional life. Some perceive "impassibility" as meaning God is emotionless, situated in Heaven as an aloof, "rock-like" God.  

    For the reader's sake, let me say that "impassibility" does not mean "no emotions". Rather, the term "impassible" is denying a certain way of expression emotions. The first step to better understanding "DDI" is in seeing how God's emotional life differs from our own. I'll briefly expound those differences, and then conclude with some Scriptural examples.

How God's impassible or constant emotional life differs from our passible or changing emotional life

    We as human beings are "passible" or have "passions", that is, the sort of emotional life that is affected by things other than ourselves. Author Samuel Renihan in the May 2022 edition of "Tabletalk Magazine" gives a helpful illustration of human passions or "passible" emotions. He writes,

"A long-standing and beloved tradition of church life is a potluck or fellowship meal. Food abounds, and everyone enjoys the bountiful feast. When you walk by the food and desserts with your plate, you choose certain items and pass others by. Why is that? Why do you choose some but not others? The truth is that each of the foods or desserts that you see before you is operating on you, exerting an influence on you, and affecting you. How so? You perceive each item as good or bad, and then you are drawn to the good and repulsed by the bad. When you move to take the good and move away from taking the bad, you have been changed, moved, and affected by those foods and your perception of them. This is the life of a passible creature." 

Renihan then observes,

"To be passible means that you are capable of being acted on by an outside influence. You are capable of being the patient of an agent."
    Human beings, in their emotional life, are prone to "ups and downs" due to being affected from the outside. But what about God? Unlike ourselves, God's emotional life derives from who He is as God, rather than being manipulated, coerced, or changed by something that is outside of Himself. 

    The term "impassible" has that Latin "im" prefix that negates the word with which its associated. Thus, God is not "passive" or "subject to have His emotions sway with whatever is going on" to use colloquial terminology. We can note further that the Latin verb "patior"(the root behind "passion") also is the same root for our English word "patient" (note the "pat" root that is related to the Latin verb "patior"). When we use the word "patient" in a medical context, it is someone who has things being done to them by a doctor. If I use the term "patient" to reference my emotions, I am meaning that I am waiting and controlling myself so as not to be affect by someone else. These sorts of uses describe us a beings with "passions". 

    These observations are vital when explaining the teaching of DDI, since the doctrine teaches that God cannot be coerced or manipulated like human beings in their emotions. God's emotions are always active, never passive. God's emotions are always constant, reflecting His unchanging, immutable nature. 

    We note of course that God's emotional attributes are "communicable", meaning He shares them with us. However, to say God's emotions are communicable does not mean they are identical. Think of God's mercy for example. God is always merciful. Renihan writes again in this respect,

"But God’s mercy is not a passion. God helps the helpless from the infinite fullness of His own goodness, not from sincere movement or emotional manipulation. Therefore, the helpless can always call on God, knowing that He is not merciful but mercy itself. God is not moved to mercy; He is mercy. Let us worship and adore our God and say, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22–23)."

Scriptural examples of the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility (DDI)

    DDI is a consequence of considering the other attributes of God (most notably His Divine changelessness or immutability) and is directly provable from Biblical texts that assert God's emotional life as an expression of His being. In the next post I'll deal with the matter of how DDI relates to God's Divine immutability or changelessness. What I want to do now is close out with Scriptures that highlight DDI in action.

1. God is always, impassibly, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness. 
Exodus 34:6 “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth". This most common description of God in the Old Testament ties God's emotional life to His personal covenant name - Yahweh or LORD. This covenant name speaks of He being "the unchanging, self-existent one". Hence, the emotional attributes of "compassion", "long-suffering" or "slow to anger", and "love" or "loving-kindness" are constant, unvarying, unchanging.

2. God is impassible or unchanging in His love. 
      Psalm 136, on twenty-six occassions, asserts, "For His lovingkindness is everlasting." What is amazing about Psalm 136 is that God remains constantly this way regardless of the circumstances. In 1 John 4:8 plainly states, "God is love". In God, His attribute of love has no beginning. If we say God is changeable in His emotions, then it would follow there are moments in God where He is not loving by nature and essence. This point is most clear in the internal relationship between the Persons of the Trinity. In John 3:35 and John 5:20, we are told that "the Father loves the Son". Is there ever a time that the Father did not love the Son? In God, the love between the Father and the Son has had no end, no beginning, no diminishment, and no alteration. 

3. Acts 14:15 "And saying, O men, why do ye these things? We are even
men subject to the like passions that ye be, and preach unto you, that ye should turn from these vain idols unto the living God, which made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that in them are."
(Geneva Bible, 1560 edition). 

    I bring up this final passage due to how classical, historic Christianity in documents such as the Westminster Confession of Faith and Baptist Confession of 1689 have used this text as a major proof text for DDI. How? The underlined word above in the Geneva Bible 1560 edition (as well as the KJV and older English translations) describe Paul and his hearers as those sharing in the same "passible" or changing nature. The Liddell, Scott, Jones Greek Lexicon, 9th edition, rightly notes about the underlying Greek word translated "like-passions", "like, of the same quality or kind of desires being affected in the same way, as another." 

    Most modern translations render this word as "like nature", indicating that Paul and his listeners are of a contrary nature to the God whom He is pointing them, namely, "the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein."  

    Thus are some examples of Bible passages that affirm the truth of the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility (DDI). 

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Post # 27 The Doctrine of God - P2 God's Attribute Of Mercy: Distinctions And Applications


    In our last post, we began consideration of God's mercy here We offered definitions and reflections on the richness of this attribute.  Theologian Wayne Grudem comments on God's mercy, "God’s mercy means God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress." Certainly the mercy of God expresses the goodness of God toward those who don't deserve and who did nothing to merit such a bestowal of goodness. In today's post we continue our exploration of God's mercy, noting distinctions of it in the Bible, as well as applications.

God's mercy is what He chooses to bestow, not what He has to show.

    In the Bible, mercy is a choice God makes to withhold judgment and take pity on the distressed, on someone, or something. If mercy were obligatory for God, then it would not be mercy, but rather "justice", or "righteousness". God as God must uphold His glory, since His glory expresses all that He is in His attributes and being. Mercy, on the otherhand, is what God chooses to grant to the undeserving. Paul brings this out in Titus 3:5, 

"He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit."

    I often think of the illustration R.C. Sproul used in his teaching on mercy. He once drew a circle on the chalkboard, called "mercy". Then, He drew another circle on the board, called "justice". He then noted that God deals with us in one of two ways - "mercy" or "justice". God, as he rightly points out, is never "unjust" (compare Genesis 18:21). We know from Scriptures that God's throne is established on justice (Psalm 89:14). Mercy is a form of "non-justice", since it is dispensed not out of obligation, but by God's choice to do so. Sproul then notes that anything outside those two circles spells "injustice", which as we've already noted, is impossible for God.   

Distinctions of God's mercy

    God's mercy is so rich, so wonderful, so comforting. We could draw out several distinctions and shades that Scripture presents to us about this attribute of God. As I study God's Word, I find at least four subheadings that summarize for us God's mercy.

1. God's elective mercy.

2. God's saving mercy.

3. God's providential mercy.

4. God's tender mercies. 

    I'll define each of these, and then give representative Scriptures. 

1. God's elective mercy.

    We find that "God's purpose of grace" in Sovereign election is rooted in His mercy. Some 100 times we find reference to Divine election in the Bible, whether corporate election (the nation of Israel, Deuteronomy 7:7-9), Messianic election (concerning Jesus Christ, Isaiah 49:5-6), or individual election unto salvation (Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:4-5). All three sorts have God's mercy as their motivation. 

    The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 alludes to this point in its fifth article,

"Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable."

    All sinners deserve justice (Romans 3:23). Due to Adam's sin, all of us inherited his sin, his guilt, and condemnation due to he being their representative before God in the Garden of Eden (Romans 5:18a). Its not judgment that ought to shock us, but God's mercy! 

    God's elective mercy teaches that He chose, before time began, specific persons out of all humanity because of His mercy (John 1:13; Romans 9:14-15; Ephesians 1:4-5; 2 Tim 1:9). He chose Israel out of all the nations, for the sake of His mercy (Deuteronomy 7:7-9; Romans 11). God chose the human bloodline leading from Adam to Noah to Shem to Abraham to David to the virgin Mary. He singled out that bloodline, as opposed to all others, to bring forth the eternal Son in true humanity, and thus to reveal His mercy. This first mercy of God ought to cause humility, thankfulness, and dependance on God. 

2. God's saving mercy.

    God's saving mercy flows as a mighty stream from His eternal mercy described by His elective mercy. We must emphasize that the Gospel of Jesus' finished work on the cross is to be communicated indiscriminately to all individuals, without exception. God's elective mercy reminds us of why anyone would believe on Jesus Christ. God's saving mercy is extended to all people, urging each of them to repent and to believe the Gospel. In the Biblical record, there is no conflict between the two expressions of mercy. 

    God's mercy, flowing from the cross, touches all human beings historically as an established fact of God's well-meant offer of mercy and forgiveness to them (Romans 15:9; 1 Peter 2:10). God's mercy is also shone into the hearts of sinners that, upon their awakening, respond freely to the saving mercy personally brought to them (John 16:8-12; 1 Peter 1:3). The only reason anyone responds to the Gospel is due to God's mercy (Titus 3:5). This is where sinners are urged to cry out to God "be merciful to me, a sinner". 

3. God's Providential mercies.

    This third sub-division of God's mercy pertains to those mercies He bestows indiscrimately on all people - whether believer or unbeliever. Psalm 145:3 reminds us of how God displays His mercy "over all His works" - whether works of redemption in the lives of saints or in providence for all people. No one can claim they never had contact or some sort of hint that God was a merciful God. The entirety of Psalm 107 gives detailed example of how God bestows general, providential mercy on those is distress, in rebellion, in prison, and other type of difficulties. Jesus Himself teaches about God's common grace, or what we are refering to here as God's "providential mercy" (Matthew 5:45, compare Paul's words recorded in Acts 14:17). 

4. God's tender mercies.

    This fourth category of mercy is reserved for believers. Psalm 103:4 and its New Testament counterpart in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 enshrine this particular expression of God's mercy to the redeemed. Such mercy supports, sustain, encourages, uplifts, energizes, and refocuses the people of God in times where they are overwhelmed, weak in faith, and discouraged. The phrase "sure mercies of David" or "mercies of David" is a catch-phrase to point us toward such tender mercies (2 Chronicles 6:42; Isaiah 55:3; Acts 13:34). Jeremiah captures the definitive description of tender mercies in Lamentations 3:22-24,

"It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. 24 The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him."

    God's mercy is certainly an attribute worthy of our focus, praise, and thanksgiving. 

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Post # 26 The Doctrine of God - P1 God's Attribute Of Mercy - Its Definition And Richness



    In our study through the attributes of God, we've looked at what are called "incommunicable" and "communicable" attributes. The latter of these are those perfections which God shares or "communicates" to His creatures.  Among the communicable attributes are a subdivision of what we could term "moral attributes". 

    Perfections such as love, faithfulness, and goodness are examples of communicable, moral attributes. Such moral perfections highlight for us the moral character of God. In today's post, we are interested in considering one of my favorite attributes of God - mercy. 

What is meant by God's mercy?

    Theologian Wayne Grudem comments on God's mercy, "God’s mercy means God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress." Certainly, the mercy of God expresses the goodness of God toward those who don't deserve it and who did nothing to merit such a bestowal of goodness. This writer and you the reader fit under that categories of "undeserving" and "unable to merit" God's mercy. We read for instance in Exodus 33:19 of God's promise to Moses' request to show him His glory,

"And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” 

    The reader can note that the underlying Hebrew words translated "gracious" is the same word elsewhere translated "mercy". At this point, it may prove useful to distinguish between God's compassion and mercy. We've noted in past posts how each of God's attributes gives us "all of God", meaning each is a true and entire expression of His Divine being. To have one attribute entails having access to all the others. 

    Mercy and compassion do have much overlap, so we won't press their distinction too far. Mercy is God witholding from us what we do deserve. Grace is God giving to us what we don't deserve. In noting those distinctions, we find that God's compassionate love, expressed in grace and mercy, is what underlies their commonality to one another. Baptist theologian J.P. Boice in his "Abstract of Systematic Theology" notes the distinction. He first writes of God's compassion, 

"The third form of love is the love of compassion. This corresponds to our idea of pity. It is benevolent disposition to those who are suffering or in distress.
This also may be exercised towards the guilty or the innocent, if it be possible to suppose that guilt and suffering are separable."

Boice then focuses on mercy,

"A fourth form of the love of God corresponds to what we call mercy.
This can be exercised only toward sinners. Its very nature contemplates guilt in its objects. It consists, not only in the desire not to inflict the punishment due to sin, and the neglect and refusal to do so, but in the actual pardon of the offender."

    In the Bible, we find a close connection between God's compassion and mercy, making them at times virtually indistinguishable. If we consider mercy as God withholding what we do deserve, then compassion is God showing Divine pity as a consequence of His mercy. The Hebrew Old Testament uses the same word to render our English "compassion" and "mercy". 

    We saw above the NASB translation of the underlying Hebrew text of Exodus 33:19. As the Holy Spirit led Paul to write what he wrote under Divine inspiration, He would use the Greek translation or Septuagint translation of Exodus 33:19 to capture the nuance of God's mercy in Romans 9:14,

"or He says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.'”

The infinite richness of God's mercy

    As mentioned already, the common way mercy is defined, which I still find helpful and soothing, is this, "mercy is God not giving us what we deserve". Thomas Watson, that great 17th century Puritan author, notes the following about the superabundance (i.e. "richness") of God's mercy,

"The Lord has treasures of mercy in store, and therefore is said to be ‘plenteous in mercy’ (Psa 86: 5), and ‘rich in mercy’ (Eph 2: 4). The vial of God’s wrath drops only, but the fountain of his mercy runs. The sun is not so full of light as God is of love."

Watson goes on,

"God has mercy of all dimensions. He has depth of mercy, it reaches as low as sinners; and height of mercy, it reaches above the clouds. God has mercies for all seasons; mercies for the night, he gives sleep; nay, sometimes he gives a song in the night (Psalm 42:8). He has also mercies for the morning. His compassions ‘are new every morning.’ (Lamentations 3:23)."

    Twentieth century author A.W. Tozer writes of God's mercy in his classic book, "Knowledge of the Holy", page 64, reminds us that God's mercy, like all of His attributes, is an eternal perfection, 

"If we could remember that the divine mercy is not a temporary mood but an
attribute of God’s eternal being, we would no longer fear that it will someday cease to be."

Tozer then completes his thought,

"Mercy never began to be, but from eternity was; so it will never cease to be. It will never be more since it is itself infinite; and it will never be less because the infinite cannot suffer diminution. Nothing that has occurred or will occur in heaven or earth or hell can change the tender mercies of our God. Forever His mercy stands, a
overwhelming immensity of divine pity and compassion."

More next time....


Monday, December 4, 2023

Post # 25 The Doctrine of God - God's Attribute of Omnipotence: Reflections And Applications


    In this series of posts we have attempted to introduce the reader to the being and attributes of God. Such a study, called "The Doctrine of God", or as known by its theological term "Theology Proper", makes its goal to raise the mind and heart of the reader to God. Today's post aims to introduce the reader to the attribute of God's omnipotence.

    The term "omnipotence" derives from two Latin terms, "omni" meaning "all" and "potence" referring to "power". Strictly speaking, to say God is all powerful is to say He is able to do anything that corresponds to His character. Theologian Wayne Grudem gives the following definition, "God's omnipotence means that God is able to do all His holy will" (Systematic Theology, 2nd edition, page 258). Author Charles T. Grant, in the Winter 2002 edition of "The Emmaus Journal", writing an article entitled "Our Heavenly Father", notes of Divine omnipotence,

"Omnipotence means that God can do whatever He desires to do. “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (Isa. 46:10). “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him” (Ps. 115:3). It does not mean that God’s actions are without rational or moral restraint. Rather it implies that God is able to do everything which is consistent with His nature." 

    When talk of omnipotence, we must qualify the term with reference to what God can and cannot do. Scripture tells us that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). Why? God is a God of truth - i.e. the "True and Living God" (Jeremiah 10:10; 1 Thessalonians 1:9). We've studied in past posts how God cannot change His essential nature (Malachi 3:6). We know that God cannot be unfaithful to His promises, since He is always faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). 

    These qualifiers do not cancel out Divine omnipotence, but rather serve to sharpen what the Bible says on the subject. God can do all according to His nature, which means such attributes as His eternality, immensity, omniscience, omnipresence, and Divine independence help us to see how the power of God is indeed unlimited. 

    It doesn't take much to find God's omnipotence in the Scripture. Near the end of the New Testament we find the following glorious statement of God's omnipotence,

"Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns." 

That term "Almighty" tips the reader off to identifying this woondrous attribute. In Genesis 17:1, Abraham identifies God as "El-Shaddai" or "God Almighty". Job 11:7 reminds us of the infinite depths of God in light of His omnipotence, “Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty?" The Christian is reminded of God's omnipotence in upholding them through all of life in 2 Corinthians 6:18 “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty." A quick scan through any Bible concordance will yield nearly sixty places where this main term "Almighty" is used with respect to God's omnipotence. 

Exploring further Biblical statements on Divine omnipotence

    As we mentioned, God's omnipotence is found throughout the Bible. I've mentioned to the reader some places that utilize the term "Almighty". Several more are worth mention to aid us in appreciating this perfection of God. Throughout the books of Genesis, Exodus and Ezekiel, we find reference to God being the "Almighty". I already referenced Genesis 17:1. The significance of this verse reference is that it is the first time we come across this title is in Genesis 17:1, 

"Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless." 

    In four other places in Genesis (28:3; 35:11; 43:14 and 48:3) we find God speaking to the patriarchs and revealing Himself as God Almighty. By Exodus 6:3, God reveals Himself to Moses and, with this designation of Himself as "God Almighty", gives the specific name by which He reveals Himself to His people as "I AM Who I AM". This covenant name speaks of God's self-existence and thus sustaining Himself by His own omnipotent, never ending power. Ezekiel 10:5 rounds out the places in the Old Testament we will consider with respect to this name God Almighty, wherein we read, 

"Moreover, the sound of the wings of the cherubim was heard as far as the outer court, like the voice of God Almighty when He speaks." 

    The point of these texts is to demonstrate that from God's very names, we see already implied that He is indeed the Omnipotent God. 

Reflecting and meditating on God's omnipotence in Psalm 139:13-16.

    Truly when we focus on any of God's attributes, they ought to stir our hearts to worship. A.W Tozer notes in his classic work "Knowledge of the Holy" the following about God's omnipotence, 

"God possesses what no creature can: an incomprehensible plenitude of power, a potency that is absolute." 

    He then later makes this helpful observation with respect to God's omnipotence, 

"God has delegated power to His creatures, but being self-sufficient, He cannot relinquish anything of His perfections and, power being one of them, He has never surrendered the least iota of His power. He gives but does not give away. All that He gives remains His own and returns to Him again. Forever He must remain what He has forever been, the Lord God omnipotent." 

    Psalm 139:13-16 outlines for us some basic features of this incredible attribute. We could assign "realms" over which God is said to wield His omnipotent power in this Psalm.

1. God's omnipotence over the realms of the extremely small. Psalm 139:13-16

    To speak of "sub-atomic" refers to that level of physical reality that corresponds to the extremely small distances we find when considering atoms, their constitute particles (such as the nucleus and its orbiting electrons) and the complex physical laws used to describe their behavior. Now I won't stray too far into the weeds on this point, knowing full-well how unimaginably complex these considerations can get. 

    The idea of "quantum physics" deals broadly with the various laws and equations that describe what extremely small systems do under certain conditions. Thus, all of the atoms making up the DNA molecules, chromosomes and such were providentially held together in the proper discrete energy levels (called by physicists "quanta") to be at the right moment and places. God governs their motions to then construct the biological material ordained by Him to produce what would be the physical nature of King David. We don't have time to get into the discrete and mysterious way God endues each person's physical nature with consciousness and personality. I know this point is bewilderingly complex - but isn't that the point? to show in small measure God's incredible power at work in the realm of the extremely small. 

2. God's omnipotence over the realm of time and the very large. Psalm 139:16

    God's omnipotence includes His power to affect future events and outcomes, as well as His interactions with the free-decisions made by human beings. How is it that God's omnipotence on the one hand and human responsibility on the other do not conflict? This millennia-old discussion will not be solved in this post, nor can it claimed to be entirely comprehended. We can say at least we do not know how both work, only that they do co-exist, with human self-determination being a reality while never cancelling out God's all-pervasive omnipotence in the realm of His will. 

    At bare minimum, what we do know is that God has so chosen to create a world wherein He exercises His Sovereign, omnipotent power through secondary means and causes. The outcomes of time and history are credited to His ultimate purposes, whilst the details and means to getting to those ends, especially when it relates to evil choices, fall completely in the realm of the creature. Two quotes may aid us in grasping this point. The first comes from the Westminster Confession of Faith's declaration of God's Providence, 

"Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, He orders them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently." 

    The second quote showing God's omnipotent will and man's responsibility to be complementary is found in the Baptist Faith and Message's summary: 

"God is all powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures."

    God's power, though being potentially unlimited in regards to what He can do in the realms of the very small and very large, is nonetheless governed by His own internal character. When we say "governed", we are referring to the fact that there are things God "cannot do". The old familiar question, "could God create a rock to heavy for Himself to lift", is ultimately a meaningless question, since it entails a logical contradiction - something which would conflict with God's orderly and perfect nature. 

    God cannot do what which is logically impossible, since He Himself is the source and standard of what we mean by logic. We know that God "cannot lie" nor sin (Habakkuk 1:13; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), since God is by nature Holy and just. Henceforth God governs the boundaries (if we can use such a term) of His omnipotence. As the later author Herbert Lockyer once quipped,

"God is a being, that, if compared to a circle, has a center that is everywhere and a circumference that is nowhere".   

Closing thoughts

    In bringing the true practical meaning of this attribute home to the Christian, Tozer writes, 

"Omnipotence is not a name given to the sum of all power, but an attribute of a personal God whom we Christians believe to be the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and of all who believe on Him to eternal life. The worshiping man finds this knowledge as source of wonderful strength for his inner life. His faith rises to take the great leap upward into the fellowship of Him who can do whatever He wills to do, for whom nothing is hard or difficult because He possesses power absolute." 

    Nothing in the created realm limits God. He and He alone is God. Let us then worship Him today that is the One, omnipotent Creator, Redeemer and Ruler of the universe. 

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Post #24 The Doctrine of God - P2 The Attribute of Divine Perfection, Reflections And Applications


    In our last post we began to look at the Divine attribute of God's perfection here We had offered a provisional definition of God's Divine perfection, "God as the most perfect being is, in-and- of-Himself, incapable of improvement." Put another way, God is "completely complete". We noted in the last post how God's perfection can operate as a communicable attribute - something He shares with His creatures. In this post, we will explore the incommunicable side of this attribute. To remind the reader, an "incommunicable" attribute speaks of what is unique to God, unshared with His creatures.  

    The 11th century theology Thomas Aquinas devotes the fourth question of His massive work "Summa Theologiae" upon the subject of God's perfection. On three occassions Aquinas notes how God, in His perfection, "lacks nothing that is required to be God". What this means is there is no potential in God of becoming better or worse, stronger ror weaker, wiser or more ignorant. He is entirely Perfect. God does not need anything or anyone to supplement His wisdom, strength, or goodness (see Isaiah 43:10-11; Psalm 46:10-11; Romans 11:34-36; 1 Timothy 6:16). 

Nothing in all of creation is like God

    When we talk of God's perfection as an incommunicable attribute, one thing meant is this, nothing in all creation is like God. A.W. Tozer compares the life and intrinsic value of a little child lost amidst mountains as qualitatively different from all the vastness of such mountains. 

    Tozer tells the story of a group of hikers in the foothills to view a particular mountain. Along the way they are in awe of what they are seeing. For them, that whole mountain range is most supreme. Then suddenly, one of their company screams in panic, for their little three-year old daughter has wandered off. Suddenly the company of hikers become a search party, calling out her name. The little life of a 30lb child is of near-infinite value in comparison to what comparitively is now a large mound of rocks and dirt. When they find the little girl, everything is put into perspective. That mountain scene does not compare to the girl. Multiplied to an infinite degree, not all of creation itself is even close to the perfection of Almighty God. 

    Clearly nothing compares to God. Isaiah raises a rhetorical question in Isaiah 40:18 that points us in the direction of considering God in terms of His Divine Perfection:

"To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare with Him?"

I heard one speaker describe God in a lecture, 

"God is the only being who is explained by Himself within Himself. All other entities are characterized by requiring something outside of themselves to account for their existence. God, however, is alone in being His own reason for why He exists".

Why all other concepts of deity are mere idols compared to the One, Perfect God

    We've defined God's perfection, and have attempted to illustrate it. How then can we appreciate it? Why does the Bible labor to show that man-made ideas of deity are products of idolatry? 

    The questions raised earlier in Isaiah 40:18 (as well as the opening text Exodus 15:11) of "who is like God?" forces us to cross a boundary that reason alone cannot. For sure, faith alloyed with reason is needed. Yet, God's revelation from the Bible must be our guide to wing the precarious flight from our created realm to God in His infinite perfection. God's Word and so-called considerations of God's perfection of attributes (i.e. perfect being theology) will act as navigational controls in attempting to express God's perfection.

    Theologian Paul Helm describes what "perfect being theology" as starting with the assumption that God "is a being than which no greater can be conceived". By getting this fundamental thought of "what makes God, God" fixed in my mind, I can then proceed to work through what are often called "great-making properties" (that is, qualities that differentiates God from everything else). For instance, as I think upon God's omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, goodness, and wisdom, I draw from that central assumption that God alone doesn't merely contain such characteristics, but is completely complete (i.e perfect) in them. God has always had every attribute we've been discussing in this series, never acquiring them at some point. Some Scriptures that provide the basis for such "Perfect-being theology" are Genesis 22:16; Hebrews 6;13-14; 2 Samuel 7:22; Nehemiah 9:32; Jeremiah 32:18; Titus 2:13; Psalm 95:3; 96:4; 77:13; Exodus 18:11; Psalm 145:13.

     Whenever we speak of God's perfection, are we talking merely of a level above the highest archangel? As to perfection itself being a scale upon which we place people, galaxies and angels - is God somehow at the highest level of that scale? Or ought we consider God's perfection in a completely different sense? God is on a different scale of being - namely His own. 

    Theologian Keith Ward describes this quality of God as "Perfect Being" as: "having the consciousness to enjoy all things beautifully good." 

Isaiah 40:25 has God raising the question we observed in verse 18 of the same chapter:

“To whom then will you liken Me that I would be his equal?” says the Holy One."

    God's perfection (i.e. His quality of being "completely-complete" or "incapable of improvement") makes all other wanna-be deities not worthy of worship. The idols of antiquity were material deities made of precious metals and stone and the ideas of the human imagination. In the Greek and Roman Pantheons, the various deities were always subject to improvement. They each had deficits that required supplementing from their fellow deities.  

    The Apostle Paul critiques such a Graeco-Roman religious system in Acts 17:29 - 

"Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man."

    Is it no wonder that all other so-called deities are concluded as non-existent or human figments, somehow connected to the deceptions of the kingdom of darkness (see 1 Corinthians 10:18-22).
The God of the Bible alone is Perfect. 

God's perfection in relationship to His other attributes
   In terms of moral attributes, we call God's perfection "holiness". Holiness refers to the sum of all His moral attributes (goodness, wisdom, grace, justice, mercy, etc.,) in "perfect union" within His nature as God. Nothing can be added to nor taken away from God as holy. The prophet Micah comments on God's perfect being expressing such Divine moral qualities in Micah 7:18 - 

"Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity And passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, 
because He delights in unchanging love."

    Other attributes that describe God in His infinite existence are suffused with this quality of Divine perfection. God's Divine Aseity, which refers to His self-sufficiency and independence (from the Latin a se meaning 'from oneself'), expresses His perfection of self-sufficiency, as stated in Isaiah 44:6 - 

“Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me."

    We could speak of other attributes. The point is that God alone is "completely complete" or "incapable of improvement" in regards to His perfection. 

    To summarize, Thomas Aquinas, in the section of his massive work "Summa Theologica" on the topic of Divine perfection, He comments on how God's perfection expresses how He possesses all excellencies of life and wisdom in-and-of Himself, never lacking nor in want. The sun may shine on various objects and possess the qualities of the objects upon which it sheds its light. Still, the sun exhausts its fuel and requires objects for us to appreciate its light. God on the other hand requires neither ourselves nor His creation, since His light is both inexhaustible and undiminished with or without us.  

Applying Divine Perfection To Our Everyday Lives

    So how can God's Divine perfection help me out in everyday life? Three areas come to mind.

1. Worship. 

    For one thing, God's Divine perfection means He is worthy of my worship. When I preach on Sunday morning, sing songs of praise or live daily for Him - I find He alone is worthy. Revelation 4:11 demonstrates how God's perfection is cause for worship around His throne in Heaven:

“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”

2. My thought-life. 

    The 11th century theologian Anselm of Canterbury described God in His perfection of being as:

"the greatest conceivable being, apart from which nothing can be greater conceived". 

    In other words, if I could think of a greater being, then that being would be God. How I think of God is related to my worship of Him. Remember, the God of the Bible is incapable of improvement. Hence, He alone is worthy of my thoughts, my time, my worship. The fact that God by definition is a being of which no other greater being can be imagined (since He possesses attributes like omniscience, omnipotence and all-goodness), then He alone is Perfect, since He is completely-complete or perfect. 

3. Knowing Jesus better.

    A final application of Divine perfection relates to how one thinks of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Divine Person of the Son came to incarnate Himself in true humanity (see John 1:14; Philippians 2:4-11; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 2:11-14). Touching His divinity, Christ never changes (Hebrews 1:8) and is the same yesterday, today and forever (Revelation 1:8). By way of His incarnation, we discover that Christ took unto His Person a truly human nature so that I as a human being could somehow participate, have access to and enjoy the otherwise inaccessible Divine Perfection of which He shares with the Father and Spirit as One God (see Romans 9:5; 1 Timothy 2:5; 2 Peter 1:3-4). 

    Christ alone, as truly God and truly man, bridges by His Person the otherwise inaccessible, infinite divide between God in His infinite perfection and everything else.  Christ alone makes knowing God in salvation not merely a possibility, but a reality for those who by grace through faith trust in Him as Savior, Lord and Treasure (see John 14:6; Acts 4:12).