Lesson 01 第一课

THE BIBLICAL DOCTRINE OF GOD

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”

(Deuteronomy 6:4)

 

I.       God Is One  (Deut. 6:4; Mark 12:29)

A.    Mistaken ideas about the Trinity:

1.      The Trinity is not a succession of ways God has appeared in history.  That is, God did not manifest Himself only as Father during the Old Testament period, only as Jesus the Son during the New Testament period, and only as Holy Spirit after Jesus' ascension.  This view is sometimes called "modalism," meaning that God appeared in various "modes" at different times.  Such a view reduces the Persons of the Trinity to manifestations and denies the eternal nature of all three.

2.      The Trinity is not comprised of three Gods.  This concept, called "tritheism," sees the Trinity as three equal but separate Beings who make up a cooperative Godhead whose members confer as necessary.

3.      Jesus did not become part of the Trinity at some point in his earthly life.  This view holds that the human Jesus was adopted by God the Father, usually at his baptism, at which time he was made divine.  This view, called "adoptionism," maintains that the Holy Spirit conferred divinity on Jesus when the Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove.

B.     An explanation of the Trinity:

1.      The word "Trinity" cannot be found in the Bible.  Rather, the Christian belief in the Trinity is a way to understand what the Bible teaches about God.

2.      The truth of the Trinity is a mystery known only to God Himself, and the Christian accepts it because the Bible teaches it, not because it can be rationalized.

3.      There are some key biblical texts that mention all three Persons of the Trinity (Matt. 3:13-17; Rom. 8:9; Eph. 1:17).  Many other texts mention two Persons of the Trinity (Matt. 18:19-20; Matt. 28:19-20; John 14:16; Acts 5:3-4; Rom. 9:5; 1 Cor. 12:3; 2 Cor. 3:17-18; Phil. 2:5-8; Eph. 1:3).

4.      Some doctrine must deal with the facts that all three - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - are called "God" and that all three Persons are used interchangeably for one another in various texts.

5.      The only doctrine of the Trinity that will stand biblical tests is the view that God is One and has made Himself known as three eternal Persons.  The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are a unity in a single Person (Deut. 6:4; Mark 12:29).

6.      One may suggest that in His transcendence God is known as Father, in His immanence as Holy Spirit, and in His ultimate presence and self-disclosure as Son.  Yet to raise metaphysical questions and to offer rationales about the Trinity is to attempt to go beyond the New Testament.  The New Testament writers only knew that the incredible had happened: the Lord God of the ages had visited earth in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, and after the death and resurrection of Jesus He continued His presence as the Holy Spirit.

C.     God Revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:

1.      God as "Father" is basically a New Testament concept.  When Jesus came, God was perceived to be so austere and removed in His holiness that even His name could not be spoken.  Jesus taught us a new relationship to God as "Father."

2.      When we speak of Jesus as God's Son, we do not mean that God created Jesus at any point in time.  Jesus has always existed, for he is God (John 1:1-3, 14; 10:30, 38; 14:9-10; 17:21-24; Col. 1:16-17).

3.      The Holy Spirit is also eternal as God (Gen. 1:2).

 

II.     God Is Spirit  (John 4:24)

A.    God is too great to be described.

1.      The very basis of the second commandment is that God cannot be described (Ex. 20:4).

2.      Any such aids to worship as saints, statues, or relics are not aids but limits to a person's concept of God.

3.      The only depiction that has been seen with human eyes is Jesus, God incarnate.

4.      God in His majesty cannot be described.  He is in time and beyond time, in His creation and beyond it, immensely greater than history but involved in it.

B.     God as Spirit

1.      By "Spirit" is meant that the essence of His being is spirit rather than matter.  There is no material element in His being.  He is not matter.  He has no body.

2.      The Bible everywhere teaches that God is a spiritual being.  John 4:24 is best translated "God is spirit," rather than "God is a spirit."  Spirit forms the very essence of His being.

3.      The fact that our fellowship with God is a matter of inner spiritual experience would also lead us to believe that God is a spiritual being.

C.     The Old Testament often refers to God in human terms.

1.      This practice is called "anthropomorphism," meaning "to make in the form of man."

2.      The Bible refers to God's finger (Ex. 31:18), His footstool (1 Chron. 28:2), His arm (Num. 11:23), His face (Num. 6:25), His eyes (2 Chron. 16:9), and His hand (Ps. 37:24), to list but a few.

3.      These references are poetic or picturesque ways of speaking of God and do not mean that some parts of the Bible teach that He is physical while other parts teach that He is Spirit.

 

III.   God Is Person

A.    God has the characteristics of Personality.

1.      Intelligence - This is revealed in the form of self-consciousness.  A person is one who knows the world around him and particularly is one who knows himself in relation to that world and to other persons.

2.      Self-determination - A person may be influenced from without, but the determining factor in shaping life and destiny is from within.  Others may influence us, but we determine ourselves.  This means that a person has the power of looking ahead and of determining one's own course.

3.      Moral Consciousness - A person is conscious of the distinction between right and wrong, and of obligation to do the right and avoid the wrong.

4.      In relation to the above description of personality, it has been said that man is merely a candidate for personality rather than a complete person.  His personality is, or should be at least, a developing personality.  God's personality, on the other hand, is eternally complete.

B.     What reasons do we have for believing that God is Person?

1.      Personality in God is necessary to account for the personality in man, for we are created in His image.

2.      If God is not a person, then the most essential ideas and activities of the religious life are without meaning.  What would sin, repentance, faith, and prayer mean except in relation to a personal God?

3.      The Old Testament concept of God is clearly personal.  He feels, speaks, thinks, etc.

4.      The final guarantee of the personality of God is found in the revelation of God in Christ (John 14:9; Col. 2:9).  The qualities emphasized in Christ's revelation of God are personal qualities.

5.      Also, in Christian experiences when the Christian repents toward God and exercises faith in Christ, he gets a personal response.

C.     The relation of personality and spirituality:

1.      These two characteristics in God are closely related.  However, the essence of personality is spiritual, not physical.

2.      God can be perfect personality because the essence of His being is spiritual rather than physical.  He transcends the limitations of our finite personalities because He is not limited by, nor dependent on, a body.

 

IV.   God Is Infinite

A.    God is eternal (Deut. 32:40; Ps. 145:13; Rev. 1:8).

1.      He has always existed.  He was not created; if He were, He could not be the Eternal God.

2.      God created time just as He created everything else.  He is above and beyond time.

B.     God is Absolute

1.      By the absoluteness of God is meant that He is not dependent on anything outside Himself.

2.      God's relations to the universe are not necessary from His side.  God is not dependent on the world; the world is dependent on God.

C.     God is Immutable.

1.      This means that God is unchanging.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Ps. 102:27; Heb. 13:8).

2.      What about biblical references that appear to indicate that God changed His mind?    (Ex. 32:14; Deut. 9:19; 1 Sam. 15:11; 2 Sam. 24:16; 1 Kings 21:29;   1 Chron. 21:15; Ps. 106:45; Jer. 18:8; Amos 7:3, 6).  All of these texts describe God as changing His course of action in response to attitudes or actions of people.  Never did God change His direction, alter His goal, violate His holiness or grace, or act unreasonably.  Also, although God did occasionally change His course of action from what He had told certain people, this does not necessarily indicate that He did not already know how the people were going to respond and that He would eventually act differently than what He had said He would.

D.    God is Omnipresent (Jer. 23:24; Deut. 4:39; Prov. 15:3; Isa. 66:1; Acts 17:27).

1.      This means that God is everywhere at all times (Ps. 139:7-10).

2.      This truth about God is both a warning to those who feel they can escape God's presence and a comfort to those who seek God's help.

E.     God is Omniscient (Job 31:4; 34:21; Ps. 147:5; Heb. 4:13; 1 John 3:20).

1.      This means that God is all-knowing.

2.      His insight pierces to the inner heart of every person everywhere simultaneously.

3.      The full range of scientific knowledge is known to Him.

F.     God is Omnipotent (Job 42:2; Ps. 115:3; Luke 1:37).

1.      This means that God is all-powerful.

2.      No force, physical or spiritual, holds more power than God.

 

V.     God is Moral

A.    Definition

1.      In thinking about God, the emphasis should be put on the moral nature or character of God rather than only on His power or greatness.

2.      Many terms are used in the Bible in reference to the moral qualities of God, such as holiness, justice, righteousness, truth, mercy, goodness, and love.

 

B.     Holiness (Exod. 15:11; Lev. 11:44; 19:2; 1 Sam. 2:2; Ps. 22:3; 99:9; Isa. 6:3)

1.      This term denotes the transcendence of God, His separation from the world and all created things.

2.      The holiness of God can also be defined as the moral perfection of His character.

3.      God's holiness primarily includes:

a.      His eternal transcendence - His goodness is more than that of any created being.  It is goodness in the absolute, eternal, underived form.  In this sense, Jesus says that only God is good (Mark 10:18).

b.      The element of severity or justice - Because of God's holiness, He must condemn impurity, ethical failure, and sin in man.

c.      The mercy or grace of God - God would not be perfect if He were not a God of love.

C.     Righteousness (Ps. 50:6; 71:19; 111:3; 119:137, 142, 172; Isa. 51:8; Jer. 12:1; Rom. 1:17; 3:21-22)

1.      By the righteousness of God we mean that God's character is upright.  In Him is no sign or taint of evil.

2.      John expresses this by saying that God is light (1 John 1:5).  Whatever else this may mean, it signifies the absolute purity of God's character, His complete freedom from anything evil.

3.      God is not merely free from evil; He is opposed to evil.  All the energy of His being is set against sin.

4.      God's righteousness in relation to man:

a.      God's righteousness demands righteousness in man.

b.      God's righteousness condemns sin in man.

c.      God's righteousness moves Him to redeem man from sin.

D.    Love

1.      The nature and meaning of divine love:

a.      Love is intelligent.  Love is more than mere feeling. The word that is usually translated love in the New Testament, used especially for divine love, denotes a rational, intelligent principle.

b.      Love is benevolent.  It is a principle of good will.  It wishes good to its objects.  Love acts on behalf of others.

c.      God's love is righteous.  All love's giving and receiving must be morally conditioned.  Although we often express that God's love is "unconditional," even in the atonement God could not give Himself to man in such a way as to disregard moral conditions and obligations.  Therefore, before man can be received and forgiven, he must confess and repent of his sins.  Of course, the highest manifestation of God's love is in His mercy and grace.  "God's grace is His love going out after the unholy in character and seeking to transform them into the image of His holy character.”  Those who respond to His grace and yield to its transforming power come to experience fully God's love.

d.      Love gives self.  All that God gives to man is meant to be an expression of Himself, so that in receiving the gift man might understand the love of God and open his heart to God Himself.  In all that God gives He wants to give Himself.

e.      God's love demands man's love.  In the Old Testament God is called a "jealous" God (Ex. 20:5).  This means that He wants the undivided affection of His people.  The relation between Jehovah and His people is compared to the relation between a husband and a wife, and an idolatrous people who do not give Jehovah their undivided loyalty and service are called an "adulterous" people.

2.      Love is the Nature of God

a.      Love is not something accidental or incidental to God, but belongs to the very nature of God (1 John 4:8).  Therefore, love itself is eternal in nature.  Also, because God is love and love is eternal, God's plan of salvation is eternal.

b.      The fact that God is love helps us to understand that creation itself, with all else that God does, is an act of love.  There is nothing that God does that is inconsistent with love.

c.      The idea that God is love essentially and eternally is closely related to the doctrine of the Trinity.  God's work of creating, preserving, guiding, and redeeming the world is an expression of His love. 

 

VI.   God As Creator

A.    The Biblical Testimony

1.      The fact is, the Bible itself declares throughout that God is the Creator.  Following is just a small portion of the many verses declaring God as Creator: Gen. 1:1; 5:1-2; Ex. 20:11; 2 Kings 19:15; Neh. 9:6; Ps. 8:3-4; 33:6, 9; 102:25; 121:2; 136:5-9; Prov. 3:19-20; Isa. 37:16; 40:26-28; 42:5; 45:12, 18; Jer. 10:12-13; 27:5; 32:17; Mark 10:6; Acts 4:24; 14:15; 17:24-26; Rom. 1:20; 1 Cor. 8:6; Eph. 3:9;          Heb. 11:3; Rev. 4:11; 10:6.

2.      It has often been said that if a person really believes Genesis 1:1, he will not find it difficult to believe anything else recorded in the Bible.  That is, if God really created all things, then He controls all things and can do all things.  So when one truly believes in God as Creator, then one has no difficulty in believing the various miracles of the Bible.

B.     Its Relationship to Other Doctrines

1.      The position one takes on the issue of God as Creator affects one’s beliefs in all other major doctrines.  In fact, it also has been said that all of the major doctrines of Christianity find their inception in the book of Genesis.

2.      Following are some beliefs we hold that have their foundation in the book of Genesis:

a.      Marriage - (Gen. 1:27-28; 2:22-24; Matt. 19:4-6)

b.      Wearing clothes - (Gen. 2:25; 3:6-7, 10-11, 21)

c.      Consequences for rejecting God’s rules - (Gen. 3:13-19)

d.      Sin and death and redemption in Christ - (Gen. 2:17; 3:1-19; Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:21-22)


Review Questions
1.   What does the word “Trinity” refer to?
2.   In what new way did Jesus teach His followers to refer to God?
3.   What are some truths related to the fact that God is Spirit?
4.   What do we mean when we say, “God is Person”?
5.   What are some characteristics of personality?
6.   What are some reasons we have to believe that God is Person?
7.   What does it mean that God is Infinite?
8.   What does it mean that God is Eternal?
9.   What does it mean that God is Immutable”
10. What does it mean that God is Omnipresent?
11. What does it mean that God is Omniscient?
12. What does it mean that God is Omnipresent?
13. What are some terms used in the Bible in reference to the moral qualities of God?
14. What is meant by the righteousness of God?
15. What are some aspects of divine love?
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