The Unknown God
Perhaps no belief is more widely held among the human race than that of a belief in a higher power. Christians call him God, Mohammedans worship him as Allah, others are satisfied to merely designate him as the great First Cause. Fewer than five percent of mankind claim to be atheists, with no belief in any kind of god .
The ancient Athenians, like many of their contemporaries, worshipped an entire panoply of gods. In the Acropolis on Mars Hill they had shrines to many of these deities. There was even one erected in honor of "The Unknown God." It was of this god that Paul said, "Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you" (Acts 17:23).
How Do You Perceive God?
There is more about God in the Bible than about any other individual. Every book, with the exception of Esther, mentions his name. Yet humanity's conception about Him differ greatly. One sees Him as a figure of pure holiness, almost unapproachable in His majesty. Another perceives Him as a kindly father figure, ever cognizant of the believer's prayers. Still another looks upon Him as a stern judge.
Many psychologists affirm that a man's concept of God is largely based on his own experiences with his literal father. Those who have had a stern upbringing see God as a judge who expects unattainable perfection from His creation. Those who have had a tender and loving human father tend to transfer those same attributes to the heavenly Father. Others, whose parents have been uninterested in their children, perceive a God who is likewise not involved with his human creation.
With such a variety of concepts about the Almighty, it is logical to question as to whether the Bible paints a consistent portrait of the Creator. There are reasons enough to expect such a revelation. After all, He made man "in His image" (Gen. 1:27). His Son, Jesus, was "the express image of his person" (Heb. 1:3). Jesus stated, "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). Yet man's perceptions of God vary--and well they might.
The Old Testament God
The Bible, in fact, presents two distinct portraits of God, which, while distinct, are harmonious. In the Old Testament we meet a Creator who is so far above man as to be aloof in His holiness. He is "the high and lofty one, who inhabiteth eternity" (Isa. 57:15). Yet in the same verse, He also dwells with him "who is of a contrite and humble spirit." We read of Him in Isaiah 55:9, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." He is portrayed as an exactor of strict justice, who is "of purer eyes than to behold evil" (Hab. 1:13). He is "a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me" (Exod. 20:5). He tolerated no rivals, giving as His first commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Exod. 20:3).
So exalted was He that many of the pious in Jewry would not even pronounce his name, Jehovah. When they did refer to Him, they often spelled His title as G_d, lest they offend him by spelling out so sacred a word.
True, He had his confidants. He spoke to Moses "face to face, as a man speaketh to a friend" (Exod. 33:11). Abraham was known as "a friend of God" (James 2:23). We read of Him in Amos 3:7, "Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." But such servants were few and far between. Of others we read "Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed" (Isa. 6:10).
The New Testament God
In the New Testament we are introduced to a friendlier picture of God. Jesus taught his disciples to pray, "Our Father, which art in heaven" (Matt. 6:9). He told his followers, "the Father Himself loveth you" (John 16:27). The Apostle Paul assured the Christians that they could address God as "Abba," a familiar form of "father," roughly corresponding with our "Daddy." We meet a God who is concerned with the sparrows and who numbers the hairs of your head (Luke 12:6, 7).
This familial relationship was not available to even the faithful of the Old Testament because it is based on a new relationship that was not possible until after the death of Jesus, who "brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Tim. 1:10). Such a familiarity was reserved for those who were committed to following in the footsteps of Jesus. The Lord told of this duality in his preaching in Matthew 13:11, 13. "He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. . . . Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand."
The God of Today
Today, unfortunately, we meet a still more familiar God. Now He is often spoken of in such irreverent terms as "The Man upstairs," "Big Daddy in heaven," or the sexual revolutions, "Our Parent, which art in heaven." He is portrayed as having "the whole world in His hands." Such expressions, while perhaps meant to take away the mystery of His being, only serve to debase the Creator and are one of the hallmarks of the irreverence of our day predicted in the word of God (2 Tim. 3:1-5).
Who, Then, Is God?
With such a variety of portraits before us, who is the God of the Bible? Is there a harmony between the various pictures. What can we discern about His character, His plans, and His purposes. Taking the composite picture of all the Bible has to say about God, certain objective truths stand out. His character is portrayed as a perfect blend of power, justice, love, and wisdom.
POWER: No where is his power more clearly shown than in the works of creation. Consider the immensity of our solar system alone, and then realize that our solar system is but a tiny speck in the entirety of the universe. Millions of other stars are surrounded by their own orbiting planets of far greater size than the one we call home. Consider the power necessary to split the atom. Then compare that with the greater power to create the atom in the first place. One lightning storm unleashes more energy than an entire arsenal of the most powerful bombs designed by science Men speak of the "big bang" as the starting point of creation, Think of the immensity of power involved in creating such an explosion and then harnessing that power so that each celestial body moves in its own orbit without crashing into others of like and bigger size.
Consider the diversity and uniqueness within the animal creation. Notice the delicate balancing of nature so that each creative element has the equipment needed for its survival and is necessary to the survival of every other creature. Read the thirty-eighth chapter of Job and respond with him, "Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further" (Job 40:4, 5).
Yet what seems immense to us, seems small to God. The prophet says that God measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance" (Isa. 40:12). Time, too, is measured differently by God. For man, a century is a long period of time, but for God "one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Peter 3:8).
No wonder, then, that the Psalmist writes, "When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?" (Psa. 8:3, 4).
JUSTICE: Having planned an incredibly diverse creation, God's justice provided for their sustenance. Creating beings that require food, He planned for an adequate supply. The perfect balancing of nature is but another example of his justice in action.
But the greatest display of justice on God's part is in His moral dealings with humankind. When Adam and Even were placed in the Garden of Eden, God gave them but one law--obedience. If they ate of the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would die. When they did eat, justice carried out the penalty. Not only this first couple, but their descendants as well inherited this sentence of death.
But God is a God of blessing. He desires good for His creation. While justice called for the sentence of death, justice was not stymied. God had given forethought to the potential of sin and planned a way out of that sentence which would meet the demands of His justice. He provided for a substituonary Redeemer for father Adam, efficacious not only for him but for the entire race in his loins. In this way he could be both "just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Rom. 3:26).
WISDOM: Who can question the wisdom of creation? The amount of planning necessary to obtain the perfect ecological balance of the universe boggles the human mind. The provision for migratory instincts in such diverse creatures as salmon and geese required the exercise of great intelligence.
No place is God's wisdom more clearly seen that in His permission of evil for the human race. That which now seems cruel and a mockery of God, will eventuate to His praise. God counterbalances the controlled permission of evil with a restoration of man to life and a contrasting educational experience with righteousness and its results. When men learn that the benefits of living according to God's laws are peace, health, prosperity, and life and they contrast that with the present results of sin--war, sickness, poverty, and death--is there any question as to which men shall choose?
It is this long range view that will enable men to say, as Paul says of himself, "not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:18).
LOVE: Of all God's attributes, it is His love that most impresses the human heart. If justice demanded that God provided food for creatures needing it for their survival, it was love that made it appetizing; it was love that made the flowers beautiful with their fragrant aromas perfuming the air.
But again it was in God's dealings with humanity that we see love most clearly manifested. Mankind's actions certainly have been unworthy of the blessings of God. The Creator was not compelled to provide for the salvation of the condemned race. As the Apostle Paul expressed it in Romans 5:8, "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
Not only did God plan for the bringing of man back to life again, but His love also provided for a period of a thousand years to educate man in His laws so that man might keep them and live forever.
God's Personal Attributes
OMNIPOTENCE: God is not called the Almighty for no reason. In Jeremiah 32:17 we read, "Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee."
UNCHANGEABLENESS: Consistency is an attribute man lacks because he is not wise enough to know the consequences of every action. But with God there is total consistency, " In James 1:17 we read that with the Father of lights, "there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."
IMMORTALITY: God is the only being with inherent immortality from the very beginning. He has arranged for certain others to obtain this condition of being death-proof if the meet the qualifications (Rom. 2:7), but it is a part of his very nature. "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever" (1 Tim. 1:17).
INVISIBILITY: While the angels and all spirit beings are invisible to the human eye, they have at times materialized before men. But of God it is written, "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him" (John 1:18).
INTUITION: Man acquires knowledge in one of three ways: education, observation, or experience. But only God has perfect intuitive knowledge, knowing instinctively what is right and optimal for every occasion. He has both perfect deductive reasoning, "declaring the end from the beginning" (Isa. 46:10), and perfect inductive reasoning, with the ability to reason backward from the desired end to those means which will produce that result.
INEFFABLE GLORY: The visions of God's glory in the first chapter of Ezekiel, the sixth chapter of Isaiah, and the fourth and fifth chapters of Revelation, reveal a degree of glory which cannot be fathomed by the human mind. Even a glimpse of that glory caused Moses' face to so shine that he must wear a veil so that the reflected glory would not blind the people.
The blend of all these features of God's mind and character is demonstrated by His plan for man's salvation, the theme of the Bible itself.
Creating man and placing him in the perfect Garden of Eden, God gave him a law by which he could live forever, but disobeying which, would eventuate in death. Man disobeyed and death ensued. So much is history.
As justice condemned man, justice also arranged for a redemption for the fallen race. "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Cor. 15:21). The logic of this redemption is simple: one perfect sinless human life in place of another perfect life forfeited by sin.
This redemption, through the payment of a ransom, or corresponding price, was sufficient to release all of Adam's posterity from the grave. However, they would come forth from the tomb just as they were when they went into it. The same thoughts would pervade their mind. Might would still seem right and the thought that only the powerful would survive would be in the forefront of the mind. Selfishness would not be immediately eradicated.
To counter these side effects of sin, God arranged for a period of mediation when Christ and his church, as Mediator, would stand between restored mankind and the strict rules of justice for a time. During this time humanity would be educated in the laws of God and learn the benefits of obeying them. It is this thousand-year educational process that will bring mankind into being at one with God, effecting complete reconciliation for all who will. Those who will not will be cut off eternally from life and its benefits in what the Bible calls "the second death."
God promised to make a "new heavens and a new earth." This "new heavens" is a picture of Christ and his church as the spiritual rulers of mankind, and the "new earth" is a descriptive phrase of man and their new society of harmony and social justice for all. In poetic terms, the prophet Hosea shows the relationship between these two elements, "And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the LORD, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth" (Hosea 2:21; see also Psa. 50:4-6).
This salvation process will not be merely for an elect few, but is guaranteed to all that die in Adam. "All that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of Man, and come forth" (John 5:29). "God will have all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time" (1 Tim. 2:4-6).
For more details on this great God and his wonderful plan of the ages, we recommend a reading of the Free booklet, God's Kingdom, or a viewing of the half-hour video cassette (only $7) with the same title. See order form on the back of this newsletter.