Grace Bible Church
Robert R. McLaughlin Bible Ministries
The Tree of Life is a weekly teaching summary.
The Tree of Life from the week ending 12/07/08
We have already seen Point 1 which was the definition and description. The word theology comes from two Greek words, "theo" [God] and "logia" [word] meaning the study of God. Christian theology is simply an attempt to understand God as He is revealed in the Bible. No type of theology will ever fully explain God and all of His ways because God is infinitely and eternally higher than we are. Therefore, any attempt to describe Him, His ways and plan will always fall short:
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? - With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? (ROM 33:35)
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen (ROM 11:36).Everything comes from Him; everything happens only through His consent, and everything ends up with Him being glorified.
Point 2. The Essence of God is necessary understand the Theology of God's Perfect Plan.
Under this point, we noted that God is a person, and as a person He has personality, self-consciousness, as well as self-determination. God recognizes Himself as a personality and as such, He thinks, He decides, He acts rationally. God is perfectly motivated, He is perfectly rational, and God has never performed any deed of any kind that was not absolutely, totally, and completely perfect in keeping with His perfect mentality, as well as His perfect motivation. Whether we are looking at God from the standpoint of what He does, or what He thinks, or how He is motivated, it all adds up to perfection.
We need to think of God in terms of, not only His perfect attributes, but perfect coordination between the attributes, or the essence. God is the supreme being of the universe, and exists in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each person has identical attributes and qualities, and when the attributes are in view, God is One. When personality is in view, the persons of the Godhead are distinguished by the use of some form of the plural, such as Elohim, the name for God in the Hebrew, recognizing the unity of the attributes.
Each member of the Godhead has the same amount of sovereignty, eternal life, holiness or integrity, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, and immutability. They are co-equal, they are co-eternal, and when they are regarded from the standpoint of their essence, God is said to be One. “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” (DEU 6:45). This has always been the case, and there never was a time in eternity past when this status quo did not exist. Furthermore, these members of the God-head perform certain functions which differentiate persons in the Godhead.
Under point 2, we need to note the characteristics of the essence of God, because that will increase our love for Him. The first attribute is sovereignty which means that God is supreme in rule, and He has authority over all things. There is no higher authority in the universe than God. "Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other." (DEU 4:39).
The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts. He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap To make them sit with nobles, And inherit a seat of honor; For the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, And He set the world on them (1SA 2:6-8).
The sovereign will of God for all of mankind is expressed entirely in one verse:
He desires all men to be saved and to come unto the epignosis knowledge of the truth (1TI 2:4).
The very fact that all men are not saved, and that all believers do not come unto the epignosis knowledge of the truth, reveals that although God is sovereign He will not violate human volition. This is a vital principle in recognizing the essence of God, and how it relates to the free-will of man. All three members of the Trinity possess sovereignty:
- God the Father is the Most High over all the earth (PSA 83:18).
- The Lord Jesus Christ said, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." (MAT 28:18).
- God the Holy Spirit, But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills (1CO 12:11).
The second attribute of God is perfect righteousness. This means that He is absolute righteousness or holiness (1SA 2:2; LEV 19:2). God is not simply righteous by comparison with someone else; His righteousness is independent and incomparable. We call some people good and some people bad, yet when we get to know them, we usually find that the bad people have some good in them, and the good people have some bad in them. How do we make these evaluations? Well, we have set up certain standards in our soul, and through relativity and comparison we make evaluations. However, God is totally perfect, and we cannot even compare with His perfection or His righteousness.
How can we who are imperfect ever have fellowship with God who is totally perfect? The answer is that God took cognizance of this fact, and in eternity past He made a provision to solve our problem:
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2CO 5:21).
It’s impossible to have perfect righteousness without having perfect character, and a perfect personality. The key to personality is not charisma, or a sparkling intellect; the key to personality is righteousness. True righteousness does not look down their nose at others who appear to be worse than themselves. God is not fooled by such phony righteousness. True righteousness is a very relaxed and wonderful state to be in, as well as a wonderful state to be around.
"The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He." (DEU 32:4)
Notice that the righteousness of God is related to His work, His ways, and His faithfulness. Faithfulness is mentioned along with perfect righteousness because we need to think of God in terms of, not only His perfect attributes, but perfect coordination between the attributes. "Righteous art Thou, O Lord, And upright are Thy judgments" (PSA 119:137). Many times things happen in life that we do not understand. They seem to be unfair, but in the end, you will find out that God was exactly right and just in dealing with the situation the way that He did. As for God, His way is blameless; The word of the Lord is tested; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him (2SA 22:31). This means that, as believers, we can rely fully on the knowledge that whatever God does in our lives is consistent with His righteous attitudes and actions. The righteousness of God is active. As a primary motive, it incites all that He does; therefore He is righteous in His ways. Though infinitely holy, He maintains a relation to fallen creatures; not with an inactive detached-attitude from them, but a vital, and faithful availability.
The righteousness of God embraces not only His devotion to that which is good and holy, but is also the very basis of His hatred of that which is evil. There is within divine righteousness the capacity for reaction toward others which is both positive and negative. Therefore, in the scriptures, His righteousness is not a self-righteousness that marks and accuses or condemns others, but rather a righteousness that desires to help others with His grace and mercy. The righteousness of God is manifested by His glory. Then Moses said, "I pray Thee, show me Thy glory!" And He said, "I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion" (EXO 33:18-19).
Just as we saw with sovereignty, all three members of the Trinity possess perfect righteousness as well:
- The Father is said to be perfect righteousness in ISA 51:8b "But My righteousness shall be forever, And My salvation to all generations."
- The very title of the Holy Spirit signifies that He possesses this divine attribute as well.
The third attribute of God is justice. God's holiness includes His justice as well as His righteousness. As a part of God’s justice, God is fair. In fact, it is impossible for God to be unfair. "Now then let the fear of the Lord be upon you; be very careful what you do, for the Lord our God will have no part in unrighteousness, or partiality, or the taking of a bribe" (2CH 19:7). There are two ways in which God expresses His justice to believers:
1. To mature believers, God expresses His justice in blessing.
2. To carnal or apostate believers, God expresses His justice through divine discipline. For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives" (HEB 12:6).
Justice always administers what righteousness demands. Justice means that in vindicating any believer, God cannot compromise any of His attributes. This means that because the Lord Jesus Christ satisfied the justice of God the Father, God the Father is now free to pardon and justify those who trust in His Son. It also means that God is equally free to condemn those who reject the saving work on the Cross:
He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (JOH 3:18)
It was the work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross that allowed the justice of God to release the one attribute that most individuals always focus in on, His love. The fact that God’s justice is satisfied frees God to love us and bless us. Justice is the source of Grace, and justice is the believer's point of contact with God. Many people cannot conceive of God in any other way but as a God of love. However, justice is as important and as observable as any other characteristic of God’s essence:
- God the Father is said to be just (DEU 32:4).
- God the Son is called the righteous judge (2TI 4:8).
- God the Holy Spirit convicts the world of this justice (JOH 16:8).
When it comes to understanding the essence of God, it’s important to note that the righteousness and justice of God make up the integrity of God. The integrity of God guarantees that His entire essence is completely involved in all He does or allows. All divine attributes form one, consistent, indivisible whole which is His total person. That is why the love of God is not an isolated attribute. Love is not an emotion or a feeling; it is a system of thinking, and something that needs to be learned. Love is something that we have to come to know and believe. The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who was given to us(ROM 5:5).
Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; (1TH 4:9)
And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love (1JO 4:16).
This means that because God is love, or is agape, that He uses agape love (unconditional love) as His problem solving device for the human race. The love of God, or the agape of God, was used as a problem solving device for the matter of man's fall. God's love was the problem solving device for the total depravity of man. God's love motivated Him to send His only begotten Son to die for our sins. However, on the Cross, God's love was set aside. His justice and righteousness judged His Son, whom He loved, for all of our sins.
Love is a system of thinking, not of emoting. If you are going to love God, you must love Him from your system of thinking, from the thoughts in your soul, not your emotions. You will be evaluated by God based upon your thoughts!
The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him. All his thoughts are, "There is no God." (PSA 10:4)
You must have these thoughts converted into divine energy through metabolized doctrine. Proper thinking will give you proper motivation. Proper motivation comes from doctrine within, not inspiration from without. God’s love cannot operate independently of His integrity, composed of perfect righteousness and absolute justice. This marvelous principle of Bible doctrine demonstrates that the God of love and grace is neither sentimental, nor partial, nor indecisive toward anyone. Grace is divine strength which expresses the love of God, but grace is also the uncompromising policy of the justice of God.
The basis for grace is found in the essence of God. You see, grace does not mean that God overlooks sin, rather that God, as the perfect Judge, has solved the problem of sin. All of God’s attributes always function together as a consistent, integrated, perfect whole. God never has the slightest trouble keeping His attributes straight. One never compromises another. Even when He deals with imperfect, sinful, fallen mankind. This is especially true when He blesses us; He is not lowering Himself to our imperfect level thus destroying His own perfection. The reason He can bless us is that one of His attributes stands guard over all the rest. The justice of God is the guardian of God’s essence in all that He does toward imperfect creatures.
There is never a possibility of compromise, because all three Persons are perfect, co-equal, and co-eternal; all Three possess the same integrity. Thus, in Himself, God is free to regard His personality, the fact that He is a Person, as most important. Related to man, however, there is almost unlimited opportunity for compromise. Man violates God’s character at almost every turn. Here God must keep His integrity first and foremost. Thus, God’s point of contact with us can be only His justice.
But the Lord of hosts will be exalted in judgment, And the holy God will show Himself holy in righteousness.
The justice of God imputes Adam's original sin to every member of the human race condemning them at birth. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me” (PSA 51:5).
“The wicked are estranged from the womb; These who speak lies go astray from birth” (PSA 58:3).
Sovereignty willed to create.
The righteousness of God demands perfection.
The omniscience of God provides the plan, and so the omnipotence of God condemns mankind at birth.
Thus the justice of God can qualify mankind for a Savior, because condemnation must precede salvation.
Then Love provides salvation:
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. (JOH 3:16)
When anyone responds to the Gospel, eternal life is given, omnipresence is then with them always, immutability is faithful, and veracity (truth) sets them free.