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Let God Be God

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
September 29, 2022 12:01 am

Let God Be God

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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September 29, 2022 12:01 am

The attributes of God ought to comfort Christians, for these majestic characteristics belong to our Father. Today, R.C. Sproul notes several comforting implications of who God is.

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When things are difficult and we don't understand why, what we have to do is let God be God. We try to redefine God and strip Him of His attributes because we don't want to live in a universe that is run by one who runs it not for our glory, but for His glory. Have you noticed that in our society today God is defined in new and frankly disturbing ways? But reducing God to our level is a dangerous business, eternally dangerous.

Today on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. R.C. Sproul continues his exploration of the Westminster Confession of Faith, a comprehensive and historic theological statement written four centuries ago and designed to keep our eyes on how God is defined in Scripture. Again as we continue with our study of chapter 2, section 1, it's because of this concept of God as the most perfect being, that One who has all being fully actualized in Himself is the reason why we see the repetitive use of the word most throughout this section. And as I've said before in an earlier part of our study, that each one of these attributes or character traits that is listed here in section 1 of chapter 2 is worthy of at least one full lecture so that we could do a whole course just on these various attributes.

And for time's sake, we're not going to devote that much time to it, but I would like to spend a few moments just in passing to call attention to some of these. We've already looked at God's being the one only living in true God and so on, who is infinite in His being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body or parts. That refers to the nature of God's being is unlike ours in the sense that there is nothing corporeal about Him. He is a pure spirit, having no body or parts, and is not made up of five pounds of this and ten pounds of that or so on, because He is pure spirit.

Now that gives some people pause. We remember that the Mormons argue that God has a body since the Bible says that we are made in His image, and since we have bodies, that must mean that God has a body. And not only that, throughout the Scriptures, God is often depicted as having a body and bodily parts.

We hear of the strong right arm of the Lord. We hear of the earth being His footstool that suggests that He has legs and feet and so on, and that His eye is all-seeing. And so throughout the biblical literature, we hear God described in human terms, and the term we have for that is anthropomorphic language. Anthropomorphic language.

Now that's sort of a fifty-cent word, but let me just break it down for you. Anthropology is the study of human civilization and so on. It comes from the Greek word anthropos, which is the Greek word for man or humanity, actually.

It's not just the male, but all humans. And morphos is the Greek word for form or structure. Morphology studies forms or structures in the scientific world, and so anthropomorphic simply means literally in the form of the human. So when God addresses us, He addresses us in human terms. This is the only way God could communicate with us, because we're not God. We can't rise to the level that He is and speak to Him in His terminology, because we're not God. And Calvin, for example, when he speaks of God's verbal revelation to us, says it's as though God condescends to lisp to His creatures, just as parents in this world will use what we call baby talk when we're trying to communicate with our infants in the family.

And so God condescends to speak to us in our language, in our terms, because that's the only way we could possibly have any understanding of Him. At the same time, the Bible is quick to warn us that when the Bible uses anthropomorphisms of God, that they are just that, that they can't be pushed too far, as we looked at earlier when we talked about the language about God, because the Bible in one sense warns us that even though in narratives, for example, when God stops Abraham on Mount Moriah from slaying Isaac, He says, stop, you know, for now I know that you honor Me, and so on, as if God had to wait till that moment before He knew what Abraham would do, where we read on those occasions in Scripture where God says He's going to punish the people, and then the people repent, and they beat their chests, and they tear their garments, and then it'll say, and God repented or relented of what He had tended to do. And yet then later on in the didactic portions, it reminds us that God is not a man, that He should repent or change His mind.

And so we have to be careful that any time we see these human forms projected onto God, to remember that the Bible tells us that when they use human language to describe God, it is in a manner of speaking. Now I labor that point right now because right now one of the greatest threats to Christian orthodoxy that has invaded the church tremendously in our day is this movement called Open Theism, and Open Theism has a view of God that was developed in order to account for a complete freewill dimension to humanity. Clark Pinnock, who was the original architect of this, made the statement that he was trying to come up with a doctrine of God that was somewhere between process theology that gives you a finite God who's always changing, and the orthodox, historic doctrine of God.

Now the one thing that's good about that is that most heretics, when they preach their heresy, try to parade it off as orthodoxy, where Pinnock is up front at the beginning and says, I am departing from Christian classical orthodoxy. He doesn't believe he's departing from biblical truth, but he thinks that Christian orthodoxy has been wrong with respect to their understanding of the omniscience of God. And so the idea here is that God does not know what human beings are going to do until they do it, and they will argue for this from biblical passage such as the one that I've just mentioned where God says, now I see, now I know, and so on, which seems to suggest that God doesn't know all things until they happen. Even though elsewhere the Scripture says, you know, where can I flee from your presence if I ascend to heaven, thou art there.

If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there. You know when I sit down, you know when I stand up, and before a word is formed on my lips, O Lord, thou dost know it altogether. And in the New Testament, we are also told that God knows what we're going to say and what we do before we do it. And so if we're going to be consistently biblical, we have to get rid of this idea of a finite God who's a cosmic cheerleader hoping that everything's going to come out in the wash, but in the final analysis, it all depends upon what we do. And at best, God is a spectator, and as I said, again, more like Aristotle's God, a do-nothing king who reigns but doesn't rule.

But in any case, God is described here not in bodily human terms, but we are reminded that God is a Spirit, and a Spirit who is a pure Spirit has no corporeality to Him. In the ancient world when the philosophers sought for ultimate reality, they were divided into four different camps. There were those who said that ultimate reality is one.

They were called monists. Others said, no, there are multiple realities that are ultimate like earth, air, fire, and water. There are four things, and then the question was, well, how do those four things hang together? And then the philosophers came up with what they called the quintessence or the fifth essence that transcended the other four that became the unifying factor over earth, air, fire, and water.

But they would argue over whether ultimate reality was one or many, monistic or pluralistic, and the other argument was whether it was physical or nonphysical, corporeal or incorporeal. And what Christianity declares without any hesitation is that ultimate reality, God, is incorporeal, and He cannot be contained to one particular place. It's because He's an infinite Spirit that He can be omnipresent, that He can be all-knowing, omniscient, and so on, immutable, eternal. One word I want to mention here that's in this list is the word immense. Now usually when we use the word immense, we think that that just means something of huge, gigantic size. But when the Confession speaks of the immensity of God, it's speaking of an incredibly mysterious but majestic idea about God, and that is, though God is everywhere at all times, there is no place where He is not present. But wherever He is present, He's present in His fullness.

Now that's enough to give you an Excedrin headache number nine if you want to think about that for a long time. We have a tendency to think of God as being like a great big elephant where the tail is in New York City and the trunk is in San Diego, you know, because He's so big that He spans the whole nation. No, our Father who art in heaven, though He transcends this earth and cannot be contained to this earth, yet whenever we meet Him in our worship service and He is present with His people, all who He is and all that He is, is here. He is here in the fullness of His being, the fullness of His immutability, His omniscience, His eternality, and so on.

And so I just wanted to mention that one in passing. Incomprehensible, almighty. The term almighty is one that we've talked about that's often misunderstood. You know, we always have this seminary student that wants to stump the professor, and you see the question coming. And by the first year of seminary, the seminary raises hands and says, Is it true that God is omnipotent?

Yes. Well, if God is omnipotent, meaning He can do all things, does that mean that He can build a rock so big that He can't move it? And now they have impaled on the horns of a dilemma, so no matter what you say, you're going to transgress the truth and enter into heresy. Because if I say that God builds a rock so big He can't move it, I'm saying there's something He can't do, and therefore I'm denying His omnipotence. But if I say He can't build a rock so big that He can't move it, I'm saying there's something He can't do, and I'm denying His omnipotence, and He's not really almighty. And I say to my students, I said, You know, that's really, it's a trick question because there is a correct answer to it. One answer is true, and the other one's false. The answer to your question is this. God cannot possibly build a rock so big that He couldn't move it.

Well, what do you mean? I said, Because if that were the case, then He would no longer be omnipotent. Omnipotence does not mean that God can do anything. He can't lie.

He can't die. He can't be God and not be God at the same time. And what it means is He cannot ever be in a situation where He's not all-powerful over what He makes. So for God to build a rock so big He couldn't move it would be for God to stop being God. So there is a right answer to that and a wrong answer. Just like the other question that we hear is immovable object and the irresistible force. And you hear that dilemma, and the question is, Can there be coexisting in a universe at the same time an irresistible force and an immovable object that are two different entities? Is it possible to have both of those coexisting in a universe? Well, the answer of course is what?

No. And the songwriter got it right. If an irresistible force such as you meant any movable object like me, somewhere, somehow, dah-dah-dah-dah-dah. What? What's the refrain? Something's got to give. Something's got to give. Something's got to give.

That's right, because let's take it back. If you have an irresistible force, meets an immovable object, and the object doesn't move, what does that tell you? That that force was not really irresistible. It could be resisted because that immovable object just achieved resistance against that. On the other hand, if the irresistible force meets the immovable object and moves it, what does that tell you about the immovable object? It wasn't really immovable, see. But you can't have it both ways in the same universe.

You can't have both coexisting. We were doing a seminar on providence in Seattle, Washington, and the other speaker at the seminar was Derek Thomas from Wales, and he did his doctoral dissertation on Calvin's sermons on the book of Job. Well, we were talking about divine providence, and Derek was speaking about Job's complaint and lament against God's apparent unfairness towards him because of his great suffering.

One of the things that didn't come out in that study was that there's probably no book in all of Scripture that more dramatizes the omnipotence, the almighty character of God, than the book of Job. And there are many titles for God in the Old Testament, names that are given to him, Yahweh, Elohim, Jehovah-Jireh, and so on. But one of the most important ones is the name El Shaddai, which has been translated in various ways.

There's some dispute about the exact meaning of that name, El Shaddai. But the most common translation of it is the overpowerer, the one who overpowers, the one who possesses all power in that lengthy interrogation that God gives to Job there when he says, gird up yourself like a man, you know, and answer me. You want me to answer your question? Before I answer your question, you answer mine. Where were you when I set the foundations of the world?

Speak up. You know, Job's standing there gulping for chapters. God is saying, can you draw out the Leviathan? Nope. You know, can you unbind the belt of Orion? Nope.

Can you set the Pleiades in the… Nope. You know, and so you see this overwhelming manifestation of El Shaddai, the one who overpowers, and nothing can overpower him. That's the way the Scripture speaks it, which is so comforting. You know, we go through what we've been through recently here in Florida with back-to-back hurricanes and the unbelievable power that is unleashed in these things. And until you experience a hurricane, you can't really conceive of the power and this force of nature. But that that power of the hurricane is nothing in front of the power of God and is as overpowering as that force of nature seems to be above and beyond that stands the one who holds the whole world in His hands, who is our Father.

That's what the great news is for the Christian, is that we do not trust or put our faith in an impotent deity. Again, one of my favorite stories of that in the Old Testament is when the people of Israel, after they come out of Egypt in the Exodus, and they're wandering all around in the wilderness, and they start getting homesick, and they start complaining, God has miraculously met their needs by providing manna for them from heaven. And all they have to do is go out and pick it up off the ground and get it. But after a while, they get sick and tired of manna. They've had manna for breakfast, manna for lunch, manna for dinner. And they've had fried manna, baked manna, roasted manna, manna souffle, pop manna.

They've tried everything they can to give some diversity to this food. And finally they can't stand it. And they're crying at Moses' tent every day saying, Let's go back to Egypt where we had our leeks and our garlics and our onions, you know.

Things were well back there when we were in slavery. And so Moses comes to God and he says, God, if you love me at all, kill me because I can't put up with this people. All they do is moan and bellyache, you know, since their liberation. He says, I can't take care of these people because all they want now is meat to eat. Numbers 11, one of the funniest chapters in all the Bible where God says to Moses, You want meat to eat? I'll give them meat to eat, not for one day, not for one week, not for a month, but until it's coming out of their nostrils and becomes loathsome unto them. And so then what to Moses is terrified. He says, Uh-oh, we've really made God mad. What are you going to do? Are you going to take all of our flocks and slay them just so that they can have meat for a month, and then we'll be out of meat?

Are you going to take all the fish out of the sea so that we have fish to feed them for all this time, and then there'll be nothing left? How are you going to do it is what Moses is saying to God. Remember what God says to Moses? He asks a rhetorical question. Moses, has the arm of the Lord waxed short? Who do you think you're talking to?

Do you think I have a withered arm? You step back and watch Me, Moses, and you will see if it comes to pass as I have said it. You know, that's why we miss so much in our Christian life by ignoring the Old Testament because all of these attributes of God, you know, take on feet in the Old Testament, and we see illustrations of God's omnipotence, of His omniscience, of His most great being, of His being most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will. Since the Confession itself will take that dimension of God's providence up at a later date, we will wait for that to… only this thing we need to see that He does all that He does in the final analysis if you want to ask God why. And it's a legitimate question.

When things are beyond the pen of our ability to penetrate and understand, it's perfectly legitimate for us to ask questions of God and ask Him why. But remember how you ask that question. The word why can be an honest question or it can be an accusation. If I tell my wife I'm going to cut the grass and she comes home later in the day and I haven't cut the grass, she can say to me, honey, why didn't you cut the grass?

Assuming that there was a legitimate reason. That's a genuine question. Or she could be saying, why didn't you cut the grass? That's not a question.

That's an accusation. I mean, there's something left unsaid like, why didn't you cut the grass, dummy? So we have to be careful how we ask questions of God like this. That we're invited to come to Him with the things that we don't understand and ask why. But sometimes the only answer you'll get from God when you ask why is the answer Job got. As God never answered Job's question specifically, what he did was he revealed himself in His glory, in His majesty.

And he said, here's your answer, Job, me. It's what Luther understood when he said when things are difficult and we don't understand why, what we have to do is let God be God. We try to redefine God, recast Him according to how we want Him to look and strip Him off His attributes because we don't want to live in a universe that is run by one who runs it ultimately not for our glory, but for His glory. And that's in here. You know, He does all of these things for His own glory.

He's the one who's most loving, most gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquities, transgression, and sin, the rewarder of Him that diligently seek Him, most just and terrible in His judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty. Let me just finish with this. I had to make a test for ministers who had ordination trials in the Presbyterian up north, and I had to make a true and false quiz with a hundred questions, theological questions on the confession to see how they did. And before I gave this test that I had made up to the young men coming out of seminary who were facing their trials of ordination, I gave the test to all the men who were already ordained because I wanted to make sure that the test was fair. And I said, now nobody has to put their name on the paper, but I'm testing this test to see if it's accurate.

And there was one question on there, and it went like this. There's only one way that God will ever clear the guilty, and that's through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Every minister in that presbytery answered that question true, and the answer is false because here it says God hates all sin, and He will by no means clear the guilty. He saves the guilty. He forgives the guilty. He justifies the guilty, but He doesn't clear the guilty. And that's made clear right here that God, in His redemption, doesn't ever negotiate His own character, His own being. He remains most just, most holy, and most gracious. And I will continue with our study of this in our next session.

That's Dr. R.C. Sproul reminding us that a right understanding of God is the foundation of every other doctrine. That's why the framers of the Westminster Confession of Faith were so careful and detailed in their description of God's attributes. We are pleased to air portions of Dr. Sproul's series on this historic confession of faith today and all next week on Renewing Your Mind. We're glad you joined us today.

I'm Lee Webb. The Westminster Confession, along with the accompanying larger and shorter catechisms, are part of what we call the Westminster Standards. They have helped generations of Christians stay within biblical bounds, making sure that the essential doctrines of Christianity are maintained. Let me recommend Dr. Sproul's single-volume edition of Truths We Confess. In his signature, easy-to-understand style, he gives us insight and modern application for each chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith. We'll be happy to send you the hardcover edition when you give a donation of any amount to Ligonier Ministries. You can give your gift online at, or you can call us at 800-435-4343. Let me also encourage you to share this program with others. It is a great opportunity to introduce your friends to the sound biblical teaching you enjoy here each day. When you go to, you'll see a share button right in the middle of the page. That button allows you to post today's program on Facebook or Twitter, or you can share by email. Well, here's a preview of the message we'll hear tomorrow. If we could understand everything that's in section 2 of chapter 2 of the Westminster Confession of Faith with respect to our understanding of the nature and character of God, then I would say to you that 90% of the theological issues that rage over the centuries within the church would be resolved. Well, that's a bold assertion, and I'm anxious to find out what that is. I hope you are as well and that you'll make plans to join us Friday for Renewing Your Mind. Copyright © 2020, New Thinking Allowed Foundation
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-01 01:41:06 / 2023-01-01 01:51:02 / 10

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