God Intended the Fall of Man

While listening to a theology course from Jim McClarty I heard the following and wanted to share it:

God was under absolutely no obligation to tell us anything about himself.  He was not obligated to do it at all.  When Adam fell, once Eve rebelled, they were in opposition to God.  God could have very well said, “Well, that’s it, you rebels, I gave you a shot, I gave you a nice place to stay, all I told you to do was tend the garden, make some kids, don’t eat from that tree.”

 But, as soon as there was a sinner, God demonstrated himself as savior.  And you might notice that when Adam and Eve fell, they did not go looking for God, they ran from God.  Part of their fall was their realization that they were naked, they were sinful, and that God was a judge. They did not find out that they were good or right or holy, they found out that they were in trouble, and they ran, they hid, they sewed together fig leaves, that was their plan.  God came looking for them. He was under no obligation to do so, but he did it out of mercy and grace. 

In other words, part of the reason that God created humanity, and part of the reason that in his grand sovereignty he brought about the fall, was because God was going to reveal himself.  He wanted to reveal himself in the broad spectrum of his character, his nature, and his attributes.  All of his attributes, every single one reveals some part of God.  Even the names of God found in the Bible are revelatory of the character of God.  God is in the process of revealing himself, showing himself to his creation.

The reason that God sovereignly brought about the fall of man was because he was intending to reveal himself and this was the method he used in order to do it.  People struggle with that!  If you take the view that Adam and Eve by their free will chose to rebel against God but that they had the option not too, that they could have simply just not rebelled. Then you are also saying that God would not have been able to reveal himself as merciful, or as savior, or as gracious, or as long suffering, or as kind.  All those wonderful attributes of God would have never been known because human being would never need them.  Instead God intended the fall, the same way he intends everything.

Here is the proof.  “Don’t eat from that tree.”  If God really didn’t want Adam and Eve to  eat from the tree, he would not have put it in the garden.  Now, if I can figure that out, I’m sure that God could figure that out.  So, what does God do, he puts that tree in the garden as a temptation.  Adam and Eve do a pretty good job of keeping their hands off.  They understand that they aren’t supposed to eat from it.  Eve even went so far as to say to the serpent that they weren’t supposed to touch it.  They got it.  They understood what God said.  And by the way, they didn’t need that tree because every other tree that bears fruit is good food for them.  They really don’t even need that tree.

Then Satan comes in the form of a serpent and he has a conversation with Eve.  Where is God at this moment?  One of the attributes of God is that he is omnipresent, he is everywhere at once.  So, what is God doing?  Why didn’t he interrupt the conversation?  “Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, hey there, shut your mouth, you serpent.  Who do you think you are talking too?”  God could have said that to either party.  Later in the Genesis narrative you see that God put enmity between the serpent and the woman.  He drove them apart.  Why didn’t he do that before the conversation?  He certainly could have, but he didn’t.

So, not only did he provide the temptation, he provided the tempter. Then he just stood back and let things take their natural course.  Why?  Because without the fall, without sin, there would be no need of a savior.  Before the foundation of the world, Jesus is referred to as the “lamb slain before the foundation of the world.”  Why does there need to be a lamb slain?  Because there is definitely going to be a people who need a savior.  And those people are going to be given to him as trophies of grace so that through all eternity he gets all the glory for those people being in the presence of God.  It’s all about God, it’s all about his worship.  God is in the enterprise of glorifying himself.  So, everything, including the fall is part of God’s revelation of himself because he wanted to reveal himself in a full spectrum.

This is not a word for word transcript, but it is very close and captures the context of Pastor McClarty’s teaching.  If you want to listen for yourself, here is the link to the message.  Either listen to the whole thing or scroll up to the 48 minute mark in the sermon and listen from there.

Fridays with Tozer

A Divine Attribute: Something True About God

Majesty unspeakable, my soul desires to behold Thee. I cry to Thee from the dust.

Yet when I inquire after Thy name it is secret. Thou art hidden in the light which no man can approach unto. What Thou art cannot be thought or uttered, for Thy glory is ineffable.

Still, prophet and psalmist, apostle and saint have encouraged me to believe that I may in some measure know Thee. Therefore, I pray, whatever of Thyself Thou hast been pleased to disclose, help me to search out as treasure more precious than rubies or the merchandise of fine gold: for with Thee shall I live when the stars of the twilight are no more and the heavens have vanished away and only Thou remainest. Amen.

The study of the attributes of God, far from being dull and heavy, may for the enlightened Christian be a sweet and absorbing spiritual exercise. To the soul that is athirst for God, nothing could be more delightful.

Only to sit and think of God, Oh what a joy it is!
To think the thought, to breath the Name
Earth has no higher bliss.

Frederick W. Faber

It would seem to be necessary before proceeding further to define the word attribute as it is used in this volume. It is not used in its philosophical sense nor confined to its strictest theological meaning. By it is meant simply whatever may be correctly ascribed to God. For the purpose of this book an attribute of God is whatever God has in any way revealed as being true of Himself.

And this brings us to the question of the number of the divine attributes. Religious thinkers have differed about this. Some have insisted that there are seven, but Faber sang of the “God of a thousand attributes,” and Charles Wesley exclaimed, Glory thine attributes confess, Glorious all and numberless.

True, these men were worshiping, not counting; but we might be wise to follow the insight  of  the  enraptured  heart  rather  than  the  more  cautious  reasonings  of  the theological mind. If an attribute is something that is true of God, we may as well not try to enumerate them. Furthermore, to this meditation on the being of God the number of the attributes is not important, for only a limited few will be mentioned here.

If an attribute is something true of God, it is also something that we can conceive as being true of Him. God, being infinite, must possess attributes about which we can know. An attribute, as we can know it, is a mental concept, an intellectual response to God’s self-revelation. It is an answer to a question, the reply God makes to our interrogation concerning himself.

What is God like? What kind of God is He? How may we expect Him to act toward us and toward all created things? Such questions are not merely academic. They touch the far-in reaches  of  the  human  spirit, and  their answers affect  life  and character  and destiny.

When asked in reverence and their answers sought in humility, these are questions that cannot but be pleasing to our Father which art in heaven. “For He willeth that we be occupied in knowing and loving,” wrote Julian of Norwich, “till the time that we shall be fulfilled in heaven…. For of all things the beholding and the loving of the Maker maketh the soul to seem less in his own sight, and most filleth him with reverent dread and true meekness; with plenty of charity for his fellow Christians. “To our questions God has provided answers; not all the answers, certainly, but enough to satisfy our intellects and ravish our hearts. These answers He has provided in nature, in the Scriptures, and in the person of His Son.

The idea that God reveals Himself in the creation is not held with much vigor by modern Christians; but it is, nevertheless, set forth in the inspired Word, especially in the writings of David and Isaiah in the Old Testament and in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans in the New. In the Holy Scriptures the revelation is clearer:

The heavens declare Thy glory, Lord, In every star Thy wisdom shines;
But when our eyes behold Thy Word, We read Thy name in fairer lines. – Isaac Watts

And it is a sacred and indispensable part of the Christian message that the full sun-blaze of revelation came at the incarnation when the Eternal Word became flesh to dwell among us.

Though God in this threefold revelation has provided answers to our questions concerning Him, the answers by no means lie on the surface. They must be sought by prayer, by long meditation on the written Word, and by earnest and well-disciplined labor. However brightly the light may shine, it can be seen only by those who are spiritually prepared to receive it.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

If we would think accurately about the attributes of God, we must learn to reject certain words  that  are  sure  to  come  crowding  into  our  minds  –  such  words  as  trait, characteristic, quality, words which are proper and necessary when we are considering created beings but altogether inappropriate when we are thinking about God. We must break ourselves of the habit of thinking of the Creator as we think of His creatures. It is probably impossible to think without words, but if we permit ourselves to think with the wrong words, we shall soon be entertaining erroneous thoughts; for words, which are given us for the expression of thought, have a habit of going beyond their proper bounds and determining the content of thought. “As nothing is more easy than to think,” says Thomas Traherne, “so nothing is more difficult than to think well.” If we ever think well it should be when we think of God.

A man is the sum of his parts and his character the sum of the traits that compose it. These traits vary from man to man and may from time to time vary from themselves within the same man. Human character is not constant because the traits or qualities that constitute it are unstable. These come and go, burn low or glow with great intensity throughout our lives. Thus a man who is kind and considerate at thirty may be cruel and churlish at fifty. Such a change is possible because man is made; he is in a very real sense a composition; he is the sum of the traits that make up his character.

We naturally and correctly think of man as a work wrought by the divine Intelligence. He is both created and made. How he was created lies undisclosed among the secrets of God; how he was brought from no- being to being, from nothing to something is not known and may never be known to any but the One who brought him forth. How God made him, however, is less of a secret, and while we know only a small portion of the whole truth, we do know that man possesses a body, a soul, and a spirit; we know that he has memory, reason, will, intelligence, sensation, and we know that to give these meaning he has the wondrous gift of consciousness. We know, too, that these, together with various qualities of temperament, compose his total human self.

These are gifts from God arranged by infinite wisdom, notes that make up the score of creations loftiest symphony, threads that compose the master tapestry of the universe.

But in all this we are thinking creature-thoughts and using creature-words to express them. Neither such thoughts nor such words are appropriate to the Deity. “The Father is made of none,” says the Athanasian Creed, “neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and the Son: not made nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.” God exists in Himself and of Himself. His being He owes to no one. His substance is indivisible. He has no parts but is single in His unitary being.

The doctrine of the divine unity means not only that there is but one God; it means also that God is simple, uncomplex, one with Himself. The harmony of His being is the result  not  of  a  perfect  balance  of  parts  but  of  the  absence  of  parts.  Between  His attributes no contradiction can exist. He need not suspend one to exercise another, for in Him all His attributes are one. All of God does all that God does; He does not divide himself to perform a work, but works in the total unity of His being.

An attribute, then, is a part of God. It is how God is, and as far as the reasoning mind can go, we may say that it is what God is, though, as I have tried to explain, exactly what He is He cannot tell us. Of what God is conscious when He is conscious of self, only He knows. “The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” Only to an equal could God communicate the mystery of His Godhead; and to think of God as having an equal is to fall into an intellectual absurdity.

The divine attributes are what we know to be true of God. He does not possess them as qualities;  they  are  how  God  is  as  He  reveals  Himself  to  His  creatures.  Love,  for instance, is not something God has and which may grow or diminish or cease to be. His love is the way God is, and when He loves He is simply being Himself. And so with the other attributes.

One God! one Majesty! There is no God but Thee! Unbounded, unextended Unity! Unfathomable Sea! All life is out of Thee, and Thy life is Thy blissful Unity.

Frederick W. Faber

Surrounded by Insanity

This weekend I listened to Tim Conway teach from Hebrews 11:6 which reads as follows: 

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

While my wife and I listened to the sermon, I commented that the very first sermon I ever preached over 30 years ago was from this passage.  I look back on that now and cannot believe how badly I mangled the text.  Isn’t God gracious? 

I’ve heard it said over the years that the 3 laws of real estate are “Location, Location, Location.”  If you get the right location, you end up with a valuable piece of real estate.  Similar, but much more important, are what I call the 3 laws of the Bible, “Context, Context, Context!”  My mangling of the text 30 years ago was mainly due to the fact that I took the text out of the context it is in.  Now, my sermon didn’t go down the road of what is called the “Prosperity Gospel” that was so prevalent in the early 1980’s, because even then, I knew something was wrong with that, but it was not what it should have been.

Look back in verse 4 and you will read that:

By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.”

Men have been giving offerings since the fall in the garden.  Some have been accepted of God, most have not and the question is why.  Let’s go back to Genesis 4 where we read:

Cain-AbleSo it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
  Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is too great to bear! Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” So the LORD said to him, “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.” And the LORD appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him.
  Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

According to this narrative, Cain and Able brought their offerings “at the appointed time:  Abel brought ‘fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock’, for he was a shepherd, and Cain, who was an agriculturist, brought ‘some of the fruits of the soil’.  While each offering was appropriate to their respective vocations, the biblical text states that ‘The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor’”.[1]   John Calvin, in his commentary on Genesis 4 says:  “God is said to have respect unto the man to whom he vouchsafes his favor. We must, however, notice the order here observed by Moses; for he does not simply state that the worship which Abel had paid was pleasing to God, but he begins with the person of the offerer; by which he signifies, that God will regard no works with favor except those the doer of which is already previously accepted and approved by him. And no wonder; for man sees things which are apparent, but God looks into the heart, (1 Samuel 16:7) therefore, he estimates works no otherwise than as they proceed from the fountain of the heart. Whence also it happens, that he not only rejects but abhors the sacrifices of the wicked, however splendid they may appear in the eyes of men. For if he, who is polluted in his soul, by his mere touch contaminates, with his own impurities, things otherwise pure and clean, how can that but be impure which proceeds from himself?” So what was it that caused God to look on in favor of Able and disfavor of Cain?  While I have heard time and again that the reason was because Cain didn’t bring an animal sacrifice, scripture does not explicitly state that.  If we turn back to Hebrews 11 and look at the context, I think we could come to a different conclusion.

Hebrews 11:6b states: “for he who comes to God must believe that He is.”  According to F. F. Bruce, “Belief in the invisible spiritual order involves, first and foremost, belief in him who is ‘King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God’ (1 Tim 1:17); and belief in God carries with it necessarily belief in his word.  It is not belief in the existence of a God that is meant, but belief in the existence of the God who once declared his will to the fathers through the prophets and in these last days has spoken in his Son.” Basically, we have to have a correct view of God.  This is where Cain failed.  He, just like many today, invented God in his own image, which is why his offering was rejected.

What is amazing is that Cain had a discourse with God.  He actually talked with God.  But Cain did not believe what God had revealed Himself to be.  Paul makes this same indictment in Romans 1:18-31.  God’s wrath is revealed to man because men suppress the truth of God’s righteousness.  God’s righteousness is evident because God made it evident!  But because man refuses to see God as He is, Paul says 3 times that “God gave them over.” 

Abraham SacrificeIn Hebrews 11:8, we start reading about Abraham and his faith.  Think about it for a moment; God told Abraham to take his son, his only son, the son who was to be the heir of Abraham that would be a blessing to the nations, and sacrifice him.  The next day, according to Genesis 22:3, Abraham set off to obey the command of the Lord.  As Abraham and Isaac walked alone up Mount Moriah, Isaac asked where the offering was and Abraham said, by faith, “God will provide for Himself the lamb.”  Abraham, even with all his faults and sins, had a proper perspective of who God is and that God is faithful to what He had revealed about himself.  Even to the point of believing that God would resurrect Isaac if need be to fulfill His promise to Abraham.

I say all of this to say that our perspective of God needs to be faithful and true to what God has revealed about Himself in His Word.  If we major on just one attribute to the detriment of all that are revealed in Scripture, we will have a flawed view of God.  There are those that say God is a God of love, and He is.  But love requires justice.  There are those who say that God is a God of blessings, and again, He is.  But He is also a God who is ruthless in His desire to be glorified and honored and He will strip everything away if that is what needs to be done so that one might acknowledge Him properly. Nebuchadnezzar, learned this by spending 7 years living like a beast of the field only to finally acknowledge and bless the “Most High” (Dan 4:34-35).

God is sovereign and He will share his glory with no other.  We who call upon his name must realize this and the implications that come along with it.  We must study the attributes of God!  We must acknowledge that at times the attributes of God are not easy to accept and cause us to chafe.  But, to ignore them is to our peril.  So many times we think ignorance is bliss and sometimes that is true.  But when it comes to eternity, ignorance will lead you straight into hell.  God has revealed himself to man and for man to remain willfully ignorant is insanity, which, by definition, is what most people in this world are.


[1] O’Brien, P. T. The Letter To The Hebrews. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010. 403. Print.

A special thanks goes out to Pastor Kent Harding of Sovereign Grace Reformed Church for graciously proofing this for me!

Fridays with Tozer

God Incomprehensible

AWTozerLord, how great is our dilemma! In Thy Presence silence best becomes us, but love inflames our hearts and constrains us to speak.

Were we to hold our peace the stones would cry out; yet if we speak, what shall we say? Teach us to know that we cannot know, for the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Let faith support us where reason fails, and we shall think because we believe, not in order that we may believe.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The child, the philosopher, and the religionist have all one question: “What is God like?”

This book is an attempt to answer that question. Yet at the outset I must acknowledge that it cannot be answered except to say that God is not like anything; that is, He is not exactly like anything or anybody.

We learn by using what we already know as a bridge over which we pass to the unknown. It is not possible for the mind to crash suddenly past the familiar into the totally  unfamiliar. Even  the  most  vigorous  and  daring  mind  is  unable  to  create something out of nothing by a spontaneous act of imagination. Those strange beings that populate the world of mythology and superstition are not pure creations of fancy. The imagination created them by taking the ordinary inhabitants of earth and air and sea and extending their familiar forms beyond their normal boundaries, or by mixing the forms of two or more so as to produce something new. However beautiful or grotesque these may be, their prototypes can always be identified. They are like something we already know.

The effort of inspired men to express the ineffable has placed a great strain upon both thought and language in the Holy Scriptures. These being often a revelation of a world above nature, and the minds for which they were written being a part of nature, the writers are compelled to use a great many “like” words to make themselves understood.

When the Spirit would acquaint us with something that lies beyond the field of our knowledge, He tells us that this thing is like something we already know, but He is always careful to phrase His description so as to save us from slavish literalism. For example, when the prophet Ezekiel saw heaven opened and beheld visions of God, he found himself looking at that which he had no language to describe. What he was seeing was wholly different from anything he had ever known before, so he fell back upon the language of resemblance. “As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire.”

The nearer he approaches to the burning throne the less sure his words become: “And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it…. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.”

Strange as this language is, it still does not create the impression of unreality. One gathers that the whole scene is very real but entirely alien to anything men know on earth. So, in order to convey an idea of what he sees, the prophet must employ such words as “likeness,” “appearance,” “as it were,” and “the likeness of the appearance.” Even the throne becomes “the appearance of a throne” and He that sits upon it, though like a man, is so unlike one that He can be described only as “the likeness of the appearance of a man.”

When the Scripture states that man was made in the image of God, we dare not add to that statement an idea from our own head and make it mean “in the exact image.” To do so is to make man a replica of God, and that is to lose the unicity of God and end with no God at all. It is to break down the wall, infinitely high, that separates That-which-is- God from that-which-is-not-God. To think of creature and Creator as alike in essential being is to rob God of most of His attributes and reduce Him to the status of a creature. It  is,  for  instance,  to  rob  Him  of  His  infinitude:  there  cannot  be  two  unlimited substances in the universe. It is to take away His sovereignty: there cannot be two absolutely free beings in the universe, for sooner or later two completely free wills must collide. These attributes, to mention no more, require that there be but one to whom they belong.

When we try to imagine what God is like we must of necessity use that-which-is-not- God as the raw material for our minds to work on; hence whatever we visualize God to be, He is not, for we have constructed our image out of that which He has made and what He has made is not God. If we insist upon trying to imagine Him, we end with an idol, made not with hands but with thoughts; and an idol of the mind is as offensive to God as an idol of the hand.

”The intellect knoweth that it is ignorant of Thee,” said Nicholas of Cusa, “because it knoweth Thou canst not be known, unless the unknowable could be known, and the invisible beheld, and the inaccessible attained.”

”If anyone should set forth any concept by which Thou canst be conceived,” says Nicholas again, “I know that that concept is not a concept of Thee, for every concept is ended in the wall of Paradise…. So too, if any were to tell of the understanding of Thee, wishing to supply a means whereby Thou mightest be understood, this man is yet far from Thee…. forasmuch as Thou art absolute above all the concepts which any man can frame.”

Left to ourselves we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms. We want to get Him where we can use Him, or at least know where He is when we need Him. We want a God we can in some measure control. We need the feeling of security that comes from knowing what God is like, and what He is like is of course a composite of all the religious pictures we have seen, all the best people we have known or heard about, and all the sublime ideas we have entertained.

If all this sounds strange to modern ears, it is only because we have for a full half century  taken  God  for  granted.  The  glory  of  God  has  not  been  revealed  to  this generation of men. The God of contemporary Christianity is only slightly superior to the gods of Greece and Rome, if indeed He is not actually inferior to them in that He is weak and helpless while they at least had power.

If what we conceive God to be He is not, how then shall we think of Him? If He is indeed incomprehensible, as the Creed declares Him to be, and unapproachable, as Paul says He is, how can we Christians satisfy our longing after Him? The hopeful words, “Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace,” still stand after the passing of the centuries; but how shall we acquaint ourselves with One who eludes all the strainingefforts of mind and heart? And how shall we be held accountable to know what cannot be known?

”Canst thou by searching find out God?” asks Zophar the Naamathite; “canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?”

”Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son,” said our Lord, “and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” The Gospel according to John reveals the helplessness of the human mind before the great Mystery which is God, and Paul in First Corinthians teaches that God can be known only as the Holy Spirit performs in the seeking heart an act of self-disclosure.

The yearning to know What cannot be known, to comprehend the Incomprehensible, to touch and taste the Unapproachable, arises from the image of God in the nature of man. Deep calleth unto deep, and though polluted and landlocked by the mighty disaster theologians call the Fall, the soul senses its origin and longs to return to its Source. How can this be realized?

The answer of the Bible is simply “through Jesus Christ our Lord.” In Christ and by Christ, God effects complete self-disclosure, although He shows Himself not to reason but to faith and love. Faith is an organ of knowledge, and love an organ of experience. God came to us in the incarnation; in atonement He reconciled us to Himself, and by faith and love we enter and lay hold on Him.

”Verily God is of infinite greatness,” says Christ’s enraptured troubadour, Richard Rolle; “more than we can think; … unknowable by created things; and can never be comprehended by us as He is in Himself. But even here and now, whenever the heart begins to burn with a desire for God, she is made able to receive the uncreated light and, inspired and fulfilled by the gifts of the Holy Ghost, she tastes the joys of heaven. She transcends all visible things and is raised to the sweetness of eternal life….

Herein truly is perfect love; when all the intent of the mind, all the secret working of the heart, is lifted up into the love of God.”’

That God can be known by the soul in tender personal experience while remaining infinitely aloof from the curious eyes of reason constitutes a paradox best described as “Darkness to the intellect But sunshine to the heart.” – Frederick W. Faber

The author of the celebrated little work The Cloud of Unknowing develops this thesis throughout his book. In approaching God, he says, the seeker discovers that the divine Being dwells in obscurity, hidden behind a cloud of unknowing; nevertheless he should not be discouraged but set his will with a naked intent unto God. This cloud is between the seeker and God so that he may never see God clearly by the light of understanding nor feel Him in the emotions. But by the mercy of God faith can break through into His Presence if the seeker but believe the Word and press on.

Michael de Molinos, the Spanish saint, taught the same thing. In his Spiritual Guide he says that God will take the soul by the hand and lead her through the way of pure faith, “and causing the understanding to leave behind all considerations and reasonings He draws her forward…. Thus He causes her by means of a simple and obscure knowledge of faith to aspire only to her Bridegroom upon the wings of love.”

For these and similar teachings Molinos was condemned as a heretic by the Inquisition and sentenced to life imprisonment. He soon died in prison, but the truth he taught cannever die. Speaking of the Christian soul he says: “Let her suppose that all the whole world and the most refined conceptions of the wisest intellects can tell her nothing, and that the goodness and beauty of her Beloved infinitely surpass all their knowledge, being persuaded that all creatures are too rude to inform her and to conduct her to the true knowledge of God…. She ought then to go forward with her love, leaving all her understanding behind. Let her love God as He is in Himself, and not as her imagination says He is, and pictures Him.”

”What is God like?” If by that question we mean “What is God like in Himself?” there is no answer. If we mean “What has God disclosed about Himself that the reverent reason can comprehend?” there is, I believe, an answer both full and satisfying. For while the name of God is secret and His essential nature incomprehensible, He in condescending love has by revelation declared certain things to be true of Himself. These we call His attributes.

Sovereign Father, heavenly King,
Thee we now presume to sing;
Glad thine attributes confess,
Glorious all, and numberless.

– Charles Wesley

Fridays With Tozer

AWTozerFor the next few weeks, I’ll be posting from A. W. Tozer’s book Knowledge of the Holy.  Tozer opens the book with the following line:  “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”  I agree.  Our view of God determines our eternal destiny!  I encourage you to join with me and read along as Tozer shares some of the attributes of God with us and my prayer is that this will help us view God as He truly is, not as we imagine him to be.

Why We Must Think Rightly About God

O, Lord God Almighty, not the God of the philosophers and the wise but the God of the prophets and apostles; and better than all, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, may I express Thee unblamed?

They that know Thee not may call upon Thee as other than Thou art, and so worship not Thee but a creature of their own fancy; therefore enlighten our minds that we may know Thee as Thou art, so that we may perfectly love Thee and worthily praise Thee.

In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing  thing  about  the  Church  is  her  idea  of  God,  just  as  Continue reading

The Attributes of God – The Faithfulness of God

The Faithfulness of God

Faithful in all things, at all times

UNFAITHFULNESS IS ONE OF THE MOST OUTSTANDING sins of these evil days. In the business world, a man’s word is, with exceedingly rare exceptions, no longer his bond. In the social world, marital infidelity abounds on every hand, the sacred bonds of wedlock being broken with as little regard as the discarding of an old garment. In the ecclesiastical realm, thousands who have solemnly covenanted to preach the truth make no scruple to attack and deny it. Nor can reader or writer claim complete immunity from this fearful sin. In how many ways have we been unfaithful to Christ, and to the light and privileges which God has entrusted to us! How refreshing, then, how unspeakably blessed, to lift our eyes above this scene of ruin, and behold One who is faithful—faithful in all things, faithful at all times.

“Know therefore that the LORD Thy God, He is God, the faithful God” (Deut 7:9). This quality is essential to His being; without it He would not be God. For God to be unfaithful would be to act contrary to His nature, which were impossible: “If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (II Tim 2:13). Faithfulness is one of the glorious perfections of His being. He is as it were clothed with it: “O LORD God of hosts, who is a strong LORD like unto Thee? or to Thy faithfulness round about Thee?” (Psa 89:8). So too when God became incarnate it was said, “Righteousness shall be the girdle of His loins, and faithfulness the girdle of His reins” (Isa 11:5).

What a word is that in Psalm 36:5, “Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; and Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.” Far above all finite comprehension is the unchanging faithfulness of God. Everything about God is great, vast, incomparable. He never forgets, never fails, never falters, never forfeits His word. To every declaration of promise or prophecy the Lord has exactly adhered, every engagement of covenant or threatening He will make good, for “God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent: hath He said, and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?” (Num 23:19). Therefore does the believer exclaim, “His compassions fail not, they are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness” (Lam 3:22,23).

Scripture abounds in illustrations of God’s faithfulness. More than four thousand years ago He said, “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (Gen 8:22). Continue reading

The Attributes of God – The Power of God

The Power of God

Establishing a correct concept of God’s power

WE CANNOT HAVE A RIGHT CONCEPTION OF GOD UNLESS we think of Him as all-powerful, as well as all- wise. He who cannot do what he will and perform all his pleasure cannot be God. As God hath a will to resolve what He deems good, so has He power to execute His will.

The power of God is that ability and strength whereby He can bring to pass whatsoever He pleases, whatsoever His infinite wisdom may direct, and whatsoever the infinite purity of His will may resolve…As holiness is the beauty of all God’s attributes, so power is that which gives life and action to all the perfections of the divine nature. How vain would be the eternal counsels, if power did not step in to execute them. Without power His mercy would be but feeble pity, His promises an empty sound, His threatenings a mere scarecrow. God’s power is like Himself: infinite, eternal, incomprehensible; it can neither be checked, restrained, nor frustrated by the creature (Stephen Charnock).

“God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this, that power belongeth unto God” (Psa 62:11). “God hath spoken once”: nothing more is necessary! Heaven and earth shall pass away, but His word abideth forever. “God hath spoken once”: how befitting His divine majesty! We poor mortals may speak often and yet fail to be heard. He speaks but once and the thunder of His power is heard on a thousand hills.

The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave His voice; hail stones and coals of fire. Yea, He sent out His arrows, and scattered them; He shot out lightnings, and discomfited them. Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at Thy rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of Thy nostrils (Psa 18:13-15).

“God hath spoken once”: behold His unchanging authority. “For who in the heaven can be compared unto the LORD? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the LORD?” (Psa 89:6). “And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?” (Dan 4:35). This was openly displayed when God became incarnate and tabernacled among men. To the leper He said, “I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed” (Matt 8:3). To one who had lain in the grave four days He cried, “Lazarus, come forth,” and the dead came forth. The stormy wind and the angry waves were hushed at a single word from Him. A legion of demons could not resist His authoritative command.

God’s power and man’s pride

“Power belongeth unto God,” and to Him alone. Not a creature in the entire universe has an atom of power save what God delegates. But God’s power is not acquired, nor does it depend upon any recognition by any other authority. It belongs to Him inherently.

God’s power is like Himself, self-existent, self-sustained. The mightiest of men cannot add so much as a shadow of increased power to the Omnipotent One. He sits on no buttressed throne and leans on no assisting arm. His court is not maintained by His courtiers, not does it borrow its splendor from His creatures. He is Himself the great central source and Originator of all power (C.H. Spurgeon).

Continue reading

The Attributes of God – The Immutability of God

The Immutability of God

God is distinguished from His creatures

IMMUTABILITY IS ONE OF THE DIVINE PERFECTIONS WHICH is not sufficiently pondered. It is one of the excellencies of the Creator which distinguishes Him from all His creatures. God is perpetually the same: subject to no change in His being, attributes, or determinations. Therefore God is compared to a “Rock” (Deut 32:4, etc.) which remains immovable, when the entire ocean surrounding it is continually in a fluctuating state; even so, though all creatures are subject to change, God is immutable. Because God has no beginning and no ending, He can know no change. He is everlastingly “the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).

Aspects of God’s immutability

First, God is immutable in His essence. His nature and being are infinite, and so, subject to no mutations. There never was a time when He was not; there never will come a time when He shall cease to be. God has neither evolved, grown, nor improved. All that He is today, He has ever been, and ever will be. “I am the LORD, I change not” (Mal 3:6) is His own unqualified affirmation. He cannot change for the better, for He is already perfect; and being perfect, He cannot change for the worse. Altogether unaffected by anything outside Himself, improvement or deterioration is impossible. He is perpetually the same. He only can say, “I AM THAT I AM” (Exo 3:14). He is altogether uninfluenced by the flight of time. There is no wrinkle upon the brow of eternity. Therefore His power can never diminish nor His glory ever fade.

Secondly, God is immutable in His attributes. Whatever the attributes of God were before the universe was called into existence, they are precisely the same now, and will remain so for ever. Necessarily so; for they are the very perfections, the essential qualities of His being. Semper idem (always the same) is written across every one of them. His power is unabated, His wisdom undiminished, His holiness unsullied. The attributes of God can no more change than Deity can cease to be. His veracity is immutable, for His Word is “for ever…settled in heaven” (Psa 119:89). His love is eternal: “I have loved thee with an everlasting love” (Jer 31:3) and “Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end” (John 13:1). His mercy ceases not, for it is “everlasting” (Psa 100:5).

Thirdly, God is immutable in His counsel. His will never varies. Perhaps some are ready to object that we ought to read the following: “And it repented the LORD that He had made man” (Gen 6:6). Continue reading