ROMANS 11:33-36 January 17, 2016
“GOD IS SPIRIT”
When we describe someone we usually start with their appearance. We provide approximate height, weight (or body size), the color and length of hair or lack thereof, whether they wear glasses, any noticeable facial hair, or the presence of tattoos. Before I lost my weight I was described by the clients of the Cherokee County Detention Center as the “short fat preacher”. The description was valid! Yet, how do we describe God who we can’t see? It would be wise to use scripture as our guide. Scripture provides us with a well defined portrait of God’s attributes and what we need to know. Our two scripture readings reveal how difficult it is for us to know God whose wisdom is far, far greater than we can even imagine.
First, we need to pay attention to the call of faith given to the Israelites. Deuteronomy 6:4-7 (NIV) “4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Basically, God is giving us instructions for all time. There is one God, and no other. The LORD calls us to love and obey him.
In the Ten Commandments God provides us with what we need to know about him. I want to point out the first two commandments as they pertain to the nature of God. Deuteronomy 5:7-8 (NIV) 7 “You shall have no other gods before me. 8 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.” There is only one God, not millions like the Hindus believe. Idolatry, the second commandment, comes in two forms: visual and mental images. All images of God will fall short of his glory and cause harm. Think of the painting of the creation on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, Italy. God was painted by Michelangelo as a white male with a white beard. God is a spirit and has no body. So the painting is wrong and misleading.
I often hear people say I picture God as a loving father, etc… Unless we use the words of Scripture which God inspired to provide us with what we need to know then we fall into a trap in providing an incomplete description of God. The Westminster Confession of faith using scripture as its guide described God in this way. “God is a spirit, whose being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth are infinite, eternal, and unchangeable.” I urge you to look up the confession as it provides numerous scripture references that back up this description. I believe that this description of God is the best I have seen. I will use this definition and go into depth using the scriptures describing these attributes.
Jesus described God in a conversation he had with the Samaritan woman in John chapter four. John 4:23-24 (NIV) “23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” The Israelites got into serious trouble in the wilderness when the people had Aaron make an idol of God in the image of a bull. They mistakenly thought that an idol showing God as a strong bull would be a good image to represent God. You know what God thought of their attempt to provide a visual image. We are called to worship and glorify God. This is why it is vital that we keep the scriptures central in our worship in our prayers, hymns, readings, and sermons.
All of the attributes are best understood when we understand that God is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. Our understanding of God will always be limited as we are finite creatures. We have a beginning and an end. We were born into this world and we will die, unless the LORD returns in our lifetime. Our short life span prevents us from understanding an infinite, eternal, and unchangeable God.
When we speak of God as being infinite, we mean that God has no boundaries or limits. God is everywhere present. There is no place where we can hide from God. Psalm 139:7-12 (NIV) “7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”
When I was a teen I was frightened by the knowledge that space was infinite. I tried hard to grasp that space never ended. One night I became even more frightened when I thought that if there was an end then what would be there. These thoughts led me to consider God and I gave my fear over to the One God who is himself without boundaries or limits.
God is eternal. R.C. Sproul says that “eternity goes in both directions, backwards in time and forward.” (Truths We Confess, Volume 1, p. 38) God has always existed and will always exist. There was never a time when God did not exist. And there will never be a time in the future when God will not exist. Psalm 90:2 (NIV) “2 Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” 1 Timothy 1:17 (NIV) “17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” God has always been a part of our human existence. Genesis 1:1 (NIV) “1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” John 1:1 (NIV) “1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” God is always with us. He is not absent as some think he made the world and disappeared.
God is unchangeable. An old term that describes God as not changing is immutable. We think of something not changing as being stagnant or stuck. God is not a person who is imperfect. God is perfect and his not changing is something we can depend upon. God is not governed by emotions that change as easily as the weather. God does not change over time. Malachi 3:6 (NIV) 6 “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” James 1:17 (NIV) “17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” God’s knowledge, plans, commands, and will does not change. God can be depended upon because he does not change. Psalm 102:25-27 (NIV) “25 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 26 They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. 27 But you remain the same, and your years will never end.”
Knowing God is applying what we learn to our relationship. We can know lots about God but never put it into practice. Remember that the priests, Sadducees, and the Pharisees knew a lot of scripture but were blinded to the truth of Jesus Christ. The shepherd boy David grew up to be known for his love and devotion to the LORD. We are dependent on the grace of God as we are imperfect, sinful, and always in need of his grace. The more I learn about our LORD the more I have learned to trust Him. The more I learn I am humbled that He has called me to faith and loves and forgives me. May we continue to grow in the knowledge and grace of God who has called us to faith!
To God be the glory!
Let us pray.