CH-Feb 24-March 1, 2017 Print This Post
By Cor Bruins
There is only one God – one Creator. How can anyone be sure such a being exists? We believe that questions relating to the existence of God can be intelligently answered. The reason we know God exists is that He has told us so, and He has revealed Himself to us supremely in His one and only Son. We read in Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD”. “There is one God” (1 Timothy 2:5). “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 beside Me” (Isaiah 44:6).
Apart from Christianity, all other religions have in common that they teach salvation by human effort and that salvation is initiated by human will. Another reason we know God exists is that He has appeared in human flesh. Jesus Christ was God Almighty who became a man. The Bible says: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The Christian faith alone provides a substitute – Jesus Christ – who saves by free grace. His resurrection from the dead proves He is the Son of God.
God has revealed Himself in the Bible by the Holy Spirit. We must seek to answer the following questions: What do we believe? Why do we believe? Where do we get our beliefs? Why do we believe that these beliefs are true?
We have the Bible and the person of Jesus Christ as two strong arguments for the existence of God. No other religion or philosophy offers anything near those two reasons to demonstrate that God exists.
Revelation presupposes that something is hidden and that this something has been disclosed (i.e. revealed or unveiled). What interests us is the revelation of God Himself and the truth about Himself (How do we know the true God?).
God is, therefore, knowable and we can know things about Him.
Why is this study important? It makes us face the most fundamental truth about our faith: how do we know the Bible is true and we are not being deceived? It forces us to face some of the assumptions many of us have accepted uncritically – but which others have questions about. It will help us to defend the faith when we are up against the secular, atheistic mind. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (1 Peter 3:15). It will make us stronger and more confident in our own faith when we have wrestled with some of the questions we have swept under the carpet for too long. It will make us thankful to see afresh that we really do have the absolute truth about God and His Son. Not that we understand everything! But we may truly understand a lot more than we have known up to now.
People are constantly asking “What is so special about Jesus? Why is He the only way that someone can know God? Jesus Himself made this claim: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6).
The apostle Peter says “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved”(Acts 4:12). The apostle Paul agrees: “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). It is therefore the united testimony of the New Testament that no one can know God the Father except through the person of Jesus Christ.
One of our greatest threats today is pluralism: that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. Pluralism is the belief that there is more than one way to God, or to heaven. Therefore we need to be assured that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. With the growing numbers of Muslims, Hindus and other religions in Britain, along with so many churchmen sadly denying the necessity of knowing God through Christ alone, we must know where we are to stand. How do we know it is the true God we are experiencing?
All people have some knowledge, learning or awareness of God. “Since what may be known of God is plain to them” (Romans 1:19). The knowledge of God is both innate (what we are born with) and learned (what we observe), and comes to us in three ways:
The image of God in man, even though it is marred by the Fall: a. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them” (Gen1:27). The Fall: an event in history when our first parents Adam and Eve, sinned in the Garden of Eden, leaving the human race helpless and sinful but with a non-redemptive knowledge of the Creator.
The conscience: the natural ability of man to reflect on himself in the light of what he knows is right or wrong. a. “Since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them” (Romans 2:15). b. The conscience is what is left of the image of God in us, incapable of saving us and leaving us without excuse.
Reason, by which one can conclude that there is a Creator God were he honestly to follow through what his conscience tells him: “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:” (Acts 17:27).
These three sources of awareness are further confirmed by the Creator Jesus Christ, ‘the true light that gives light to every man coming into the world”(John 1:9). But note: this light does not save us. This light is essentially what is implied by all the above: the image of God, conscience and the ability to reason.
Paul shows that all do not honestly search for Him. He shows that all men ought to recognize that God testifies to Himself through nature and human affairs. Although God reveals Himself in nature, man does not make the appropriate response to God – in thanksgiving and worship – but becomes idolatrous. Whereas general revelation comes to all via nature, and does not save, special revelation comes to some and is saving. There are two inseparable instruments of special revelation:
The Gospel, which must be preached to all
The Holy Spirit, who applies the Gospel to the hearts of those who believer. God commands all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). Only the Holy Spirit grants repentance and faith (Romans 2:4)
Let us state quite categorically: There is no attempt to prove God’s existence in the Bible. The Bible assumes God’s existence (Genesis 1:1; John 1:11). The challenge in Malachi 3:10 is possibly the closest any of the Bible writers come to proving God: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of, heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it”.
The only safe route to belief in God is by faith. But mere belief in God in a sense proves nothing. The devil believes in God (James 2:19). He knows his final doom. He knows his time is short.
Then there is the Theological proof of God, from the idea that the world has design and thus purpose (an end).
All attempts to prove God may be valid for those who already believe. They seldom, if ever, convince an unbeliever. They may leave him without a good answer. But “a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still”. The only way in the end to a living faith in God is by a revelation of the Holy Spirit.
We may ask: “Who is God?”. We answer: “He is a personal God”. This not only means that He is knowable personally but that He is a person. All the members of the Trinity are Persons. God therefore is never ‘it’ but ‘He’.
When we are discerning the God of the Bible we are referring to him essentially in two ways
As ELOHIM, which refers to His power and transcendence, i.e. that He is ‘way out there’, beyond our reach (1 Kings 8:27).
As YAHWEH, or Jehovah, which refers to His personal being (‘I am that I am’) and immanence, i.e. close at hand (Exodus 3:14). This aspect of God became clearer when He was revealed by Jesus as the Father (Matthew 6:9; 11:27).
The God of the Bible is seen as masculine. All persons of the Trinity are referred to as ‘He’. When God made Adam, the latter was in God’s own image (Genesis 1:26), hence Adam was masculine not feminine. Woman was made for man and from man. Any attempt to make God feminine is contrary to the plain revelation of Him in the Bible.
He is a holy God (Exodus 3:5; Leviticus 11:44). God is without any sin, fault or defect (Deuteronomy 32:4). He hates sin and is incapable of error.
God is a merciful God. (Exodus 34:7). This mercy is revealed in the Gospel (John 3:16). God is a just God, (Exodus 34:7). He is just and fair. He must punish sin and will not clear the guilty. All the world is guilty before God. God punishes sin in a number of ways, e.g.: by letting man continue in sin (Romans 1:26), by sending calamity (Deuteronomy 32:35). God’s immediate promise to punish sin is by death (Genesis 2:17). God’s temporal punishment is called chastening, or disciplining (Hebrews 12:6). This does not come to the non- Christian, it is for true Christians (Hebrews 12:7-11).
God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5). He will tolerate no rival and hates any form of idolatry. He is jealous for His people (Zechariah 1:14; James 4:5). God is a faithful God (Lamentations 3:23). He will never leave us or forsake us. He will supply all our need (Philippians 4:19). He will make a way of escape in trial or temptation (1 Cor.10:13).
He is a truthful God.
He is eternal (Genesis 1:1), and has no beginning (Genesis 1:1), and He has no end (Deuteronomy 32:40). He is unchangeable (Malachi 3:6); His plans and purposes are the same forever (Psalm 33:11). He is not ‘moody’ (James 1:17).
He is omniscient or all knowing: He knows everything that is going on, and He knows everything that will happen. He is also omnipresent or everywhere. He is omnipotent or all powerful (Exodus 15:6). Nothing is too hard for God, and with him nothing is impossible. He is incomprehensible: He cannot be fully understood or figured out!.
Some more descriptions of the God of the Bible: Creator, Redeemer, Spirit, Saviour, Holy One, King of kings, The Father.
When all the above is summed up in one word we may safely affirm that the God of the Bible is a God of glory (Acts 7:2). The glory of God is the sum total of His character. The glory of God is the sum total of His attributes.
Do you and I really know the God of the Bible? There is a difference between knowing about God and knowing God. There is a difference between knowing about Him from what we read in the Bible and actually knowing Him. Let us repeat again: the God of the Bible is knowable – at the most intimate level. Jesus said to His disciples: “I no longer call you servants…Instead I have called you friends” (John 15:15). Abraham was called God’s friend (Isaiah 41:8). The Lord spoke to Moses ‘as a man speaks with his friend’ (Exodus 33:11). The witness of the Spirit wells up in us so that we may cry, ‘Abba, Father’ (Galatians 4:6). The Lord confides in those who fear Him (Psalm 25:14).
Knowing God is achieved in two main stages:
Conversion. This must be experienced before anybody can know the God of the Bible. This too is in two stages:
Hearing the Gospel – The general call: preaching – ‘many are invited’. The particular call: The Holy Spirit – but few are chosen’ (Matthew 22:14).
Affirming the Gospel – Confession with the mouth. Believing in the heart (Romans 10:9, 10).
If you have been through these two stages it means that you believe that: Jesus of Nazareth is God in the flesh – that is, that Jesus Christ is the God of the Bible in the flesh. Jesus fulfilled the law by his life and death (Romans 5:1-21). Jesus Christ was personally and bodily raised from among the dead (Romans 4:25).
Growth in grace: We ought to read the Bible at least one chapter a day. We should have a time of prayer, the more the better. We must witness.
Walking in the light (1 John 1:7). There must be openness to the Holy Spirit, eagerness with regard to anything God will show you sensitivity to what grieves the Holy Spirit, confession of sin you had not been previously aware of, instant obedience regarding anything God shows you.
SEEING GOD ACT.
Knowing the God of the Bible is to know His ways.”They have not known my ways’, God lamented with reference to the children of Israel (Hebrews 3:10).
In order to know His ways it follows: that we are eager to know whatever pleases or displeases Him and that we spend time with Him. We listen to Him when He speaks.
There are certain things we will invariably discern: the God of the Bible wants to be worshipped. He is a God of glory, He wants this recognised.
He is a jealous God. He will tolerate no rivals. He loves praise and He tells us how He wants to be worshipped.
The God of the Bible wants to be talked to. He gives us access to Him – this is called prayer. He wants us to share our hearts. He wants us to be totally honest before Him. He wants us to know our needs. He wants us to acknowledge Him in everything.
The God of the Bible answers prayer. He does not always say ‘Yes’ to each request. When He says ‘No’ it is for our good. Until He says ‘No’, we should keep on asking.
The God of the Bible reveals Himself. He will begin to show His heart. He will show you what pleases Him and what displeases Him. He will help you to develop a sensitivity to His voice.
The character and attributes of the God of the Bible may be learned. What God desires, however, is that we move beyond head knowledge about Him to know Him personally.