“God is Light.”—1 John 1:5.
“God is Love.”—1 John 4:8, 16.
“With God All Things are Possible.”—Matt. 19:26.
“His Understanding is Infinite.”—Ps. 147:5.
We are to consider again to-day the Christian conception of God. We saw a week ago to-day that God is Spirit, that God is a person and that God has a personal interest and an active hand in the affairs of men to-day, that He sustains, governs and cares for the world He has created and that He shapes the whole present history of the world.
THE INFINITE PERFECTION OF GOD
The next thing to be noted about the Christian conception of God is, that God is perfect and infinite in all His intellectual and moral attributes and in power.
1. First of all, fix your attention upon our first text: “God is Light” (1 John 1:5). These three words form a marvellously beautiful and overwhelmingly impressive statement of the truth. They set forth the Absolute Holiness and Perfect Wisdom of God. The words need rather to be meditated upon than to be expounded. “In Him is no darkness at all.” That is to say, in Him is no darkness of error, no darkness of ignorance, no darkness of sin, no darkness of moral imperfection or intellectual imperfection of any kind. The three words, “God is Light,” form one of the most beautiful, one of the most striking and one of the most stupendous statements of truth that was ever penned.
2. To come to things more specific, the God of the Bible is omnipotent. This great truth comes out again and again in the Word of God. One direct statement of this great truth especially striking because of the connection in which it is found, occurs in Jer. 32:17, 27: “Ah Lord Jehovah! Behold, thou hast made the heavens and the earth by thy great power and by thine outstretched arm: there is nothing too hard for thee.” Here it is Jeremiah who makes the statement, but in the 27th verse it is Jehovah Himself who says: “Behold, I am Jehovah, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard for me?”
In Job 42:2 we read these words of Job, when at last he has been brought to see and to recognise the true nature of Jehovah: “I know that thou canst do all things and that no purpose of thine can be restrained.” In Matt. 19:26 our Lord Jesus says: “With God all things are possible.” Taking these passages together, we are plainly taught by our Lord Himself and by others that God can do all things, that nothing is too hard for Him, that all things are possible with Him. In a word, that God is omnipotent. A very impressive passage in the book of Psalms setting forth this same great truth is Ps. 33:6-9: “By the word of Jehovah were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. (7) He gathereth the waters of the sea together as a heap: he layeth up the deeps in storehouses. (8) Let all the earth fear Jehovah: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. (9) For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” Here we see God by the mere utterance of His voice bringing to pass anything that He desires to be brought to pass. We find this same lofty conception of God in the very first chapter of the Bible, that chapter that so many people who imagine themselves scholarly are telling us is outgrown and not up to date, and yet which contains some of the sublimest utterances that were ever written, unmatched by anything that any philosopher or scientist or platform orator is saying to-day. The very first words of that chapter read: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1), a description of the origin of things that has never been matched for simplicity, sublimity and profundity; and two verses further down, in the third verse, we read: “And God said, Let there be light: and light was.” These words need no comment. There is here a sublimity of thought in the setting forth of the omnipotence of God’s mere word before which any truly intelligent and alert soul will stand in wonder and awe. There is nothing in poetry or in philosophical dissertation, ancient or modern, that can for one moment be put in comparison with these sublime words. Over and over again the thought is brought out in the Word of God that all nature is absolutely subject to God’s will and word. We see this, for example, in Ps. 107:25-29: “For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. (26) They mount up to the heavens, they go down again to the depths: their soul melteth away because of trouble. (27) They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. (28) Then they cry unto Jehovah in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. (29) He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.” Another description of a similar character is found in Nahum 1:3-6: “Jehovah is slow to anger, and great in power, and will by no means clear the guilty: Jehovah hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. (4) He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel and the flower of Lebanon languisheth. (5) The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt; and the earth is upheaved at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein. (6) Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken asunder by him.” What a picture we have here of the omnipotence and awful majesty of God!
Not only is nature represented as being absolutely subject to God’s will and word, but men also are represented as being absolutely subject to His will and word. For example, we read in Jas. 4:12-15: “One only is the lawgiver and judge, even he who is able to save and to destroy: But who art thou that judgest thy neighbour? (13) Come now, ye that say, to-day or to-morrow we will go into this city, and spend a year there, and trade, and get gain: (14) Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. What is your life? For ye are a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. (15) For that ye ought to say, if the Lord will, we shall both live, and do this or that.”
Happy is the man who voluntarily subjects himself to God’s will and word, but whether we voluntarily subject ourselves to God’s will and word or not, we are subject to His will and word whether or no. The angels also are subject to His will and word (Heb. 1:13, 14) and even Satan himself is, although entirely against his own will, absolutely subject to the will and word of God, as is evident from Job 1:12 and Job 2:6.
The exercise of God’s omnipotence is limited by His own wise and holy and loving will. God can do anything, but will do only that which infinite wisdom and holiness and love dictate. This comes out, for example, in Isa. 59:1, 2: “Behold, Jehovah’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: (2) But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”
3. The God of the Bible is also omniscient. In 1 John 3:20 we read: “God knoweth all things.” Turning to the Old Testament, in Ps. 147:5, we read: “Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; his understanding is infinite.” The literal translation of the last clause of this passage is “Of his understanding there is no number.” In these passages it is plainly declared that “God knoweth all things” and that “His understanding is infinite.” In Job 37:16 Elihu the messenger of God is represented as saying that Jehovah is “perfect in knowledge.” Along the same line, in Acts 15:18 we read: “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” The Revised Version makes a change in the translation of this verse but this change does not alter the sense of the truth here set forth that God knows all His works and all things from the beginning of the world. Known to Him is everything from the most vast to the most minute detail. In Ps. 147:4 we are told that, “He telleth the number of the stars; he knoweth them all by name.” While in Matt. 10:29 we are told that not a sparrow falleth to the ground without Him. The stars in all their stupendous magnitude and the sparrows in all their insignificance are all equally in His mind.
We are further told that everything has a part in His purpose and plan. In Acts 3:17, 18, the Apostle Peter says of the crucifixion of our Lord, the wickedest act in all the history of the human race: “And now, brethren, I wot that in ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. But the things which God foreshowed by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he thus fulfilled.” In Acts 2:23 Peter declared on the day of Pentecost (although the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus was the wickedest act in all history) that nevertheless the Lord Jesus was “Delivered up by the determinate council and foreknowledge of God.” According to the Psalmist (Ps. 76:10) God takes the acts of the wickedest men into His plans and makes the wrath of men to praise Him, and the remainder of wrath doth He restrain. Even the present war with all its horrors, with all its atrocities, with all its abominations and all its nameless wickednesses, was foreknown of God and taken into His own gracious plan of the ages; and He will make every event in this present war, even the most shocking things, designed by the vilest conspiracy of unprincipled men, utterly unhuman and beastly men and Devil inspired men, work together for good to those who love God, for those who are the called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).
The whole plan of the ages, not merely of the centuries, but of the immeasurable ages of God, and every man’s part in it, has been known to God from all eternity. This is made very clear in Eph. 1:9-12, where we read: “Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him unto a dispensation of the fullness of the times, to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth; in him, I say, in whom also we were made a heritage, having been foreordained according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will; to the end that we should be to the praise of his glory, we who before hoped in Christ.” And in Eph. 3:4-9, we read: “Wherefore when ye read, ye can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ; which in other generations was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy prophets and apostles in the Spirit; to wit, that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of that grace of God which was given me according to the working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which from all ages has been hid in God who created all things.” There are no after-thoughts with God. Everything is seen, known, purposed and planned for from the outset. Well may we exclaim: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God: how unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out.” (Rom. 11:33.) God knows from all eternity what He will do to all eternity.
4. God is also absolutely and infinitely holy. This is a point of central and fundamental importance in the Bible conception of God. It comes out in our first text: “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” John when he wrote these words gave them as the summary of “The message which we have heard from God.” (1 John 1:5.) In Isa. 6:3 in the vision of Jehovah which was given to Isaiah in the year that King Uzziah died, the “seraphim,” or “burning ones,” burning in their own intense holiness, are represented as standing before Jehovah with covered faces and covered feet and constantly crying, “Holy, holy, holy, is Jehovah of Hosts.” And in 1 Pet. 1:16 God cries to us, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.”
This thought of the infinite and awe-inspiring holiness of God pervades the entire Bible. It underlies everything in it. The entire Mosaic system is built upon and about this fundamental and central truth. Its system of washings; the divisions of the tabernacle; the divisions of the people into ordinary Israelites, Levites, Priests and High Priests, who were permitted different degrees of approach to God under strictly defined conditions, insistence upon sacrifices of blood as the necessary medium of approach to God; God’s directions to Moses in Ex. 3:5, to Joshua in Josh. 5:15, the punishment of Uzziah in 2 Chron. 26:16-26, the strict orders to Israel in regard to approaching Sinai when Jehovah came down upon it; the doom of Korah, Dathan and Abiram in Num. 16:1-33; and the destruction of Nadab and Abihu in Lev. 10:1-3: all these were intended to teach, emphasise and burn into the minds and hearts of the Israelites the fundamental truth that God is holy, unapproachably holy. The truth that God is holy is the fundamental truth of the Bible, of the Old Testament and the New Testament, of the Jewish religion and the Christian religion. It is the preëminent factor in the Christian conception of God. There is no fact in the Christian Conception of God that needs more to be emphasised in our day than the fact of the absolute, unqualified and uncompromising holiness of God. That is the chief note that is lacking in Christian Science, Theosophy, Occultism, Buddhism, New Thought, the New Theology and all the base but boasted cults of the day. That great truth underlies those fundamental doctrines of the Bible,—the Atonement by Shed Blood and Justification by Faith. The doctrine of the holiness of God is the keystone in the arch of Christian truth.
5. God is also love. This truth is declared in one of our texts. The words “God is love” are found twice in the same chapter (1 John 4:8, 16). This truth is essentially the same truth as that “God is light” and “God is holy,” for the very essence of true holiness is love, and “light” is “love” and “love” is “light.”
6. Furthermore, God is not only perfect in His intellectual and moral attributes and in power, He is also omnipresent. This thought of God comes out in both the Old Testament and the New. In Ps. 139:7-10 we read: “Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? (8) If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: If I make my bed in Sheol, behold thou art there. (9) If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost part of the sea; (10) Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” There is no place where one can flee from God’s presence, for God is everywhere. This great truth is set forth in a remarkable way in Jer. 23:23, 24: “Am I a God at hand, saith Jehovah, and not a God afar off? (24) Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith Jehovah. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith Jehovah.”
Last week we saw that God has a local habitation, that there is a place where He exists and manifests Himself in a way in which He does not manifest Himself everywhere; but while we insist upon that clearly revealed truth, we must also never lose sight of the fact that God is everywhere. We find this same truth set forth by Paul in his sermon to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers on Mars Hill, Acts 17:24-28: “The God that made the world, and all things therein, he, being Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands: (25) Neither is served by men’s hands as though he needed anything, seeing he himself giveth to all life and breath and all things. (26) And he made of one every nation of men who dwell on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed seasons, and the bounds of their habitations. (27) For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain even of your own poets have said, for we are also his offspring.”
From these passages we see that God is everywhere. He is in all parts of the universe and near each individual. In Him each individual lives and moves and has his being. He is in every rose and lily and blade of grass.
7. There is one other thought in the Christian conception of God that needs to be placed alongside of His omnipresence and that is His eternity. God is eternal. His existence had no beginning and will have no ending, He always was, always is and always shall be. God is not only everywhere present in space, He is everywhere present in time. This conception of God appears constantly in the Bible. We are told way back in Gen. 21:33 that Abraham called “On the name of Jehovah, the everlasting God.” In Isa. 40:28 we read this description of Jehovah: “Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard? The everlasting God, Jehovah, the creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary; there is no searching of his understanding.” Here again He is called “The Everlasting God.” Habakkuk in Hab. 1:12 sets forth the same conception of God. He says, “Art not thou from everlasting, O Jehovah my God, mine holy one?” The Psalmist gives us the same representation of God in Ps. 90:2, 4: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hast formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting thou art God. (4) For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is passed, and as a watch in the night.” We have the same representation of God in the 102nd Ps., verses 24-27: “I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days: Thy years are throughout all generations. (25) Of old didst thou lay the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the work of thy hands. (26) They shall perish, but thou shalt endure; yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed; (27) But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.”
The very name of God, His covenant name, Jehovah, sets forth His eternity. He is the eternal “I am,” the One who is, was and ever shall be. (Cf. Ex. 3:14, 15.)