In an earlier blog I spoke of some of the qualities and characteristics of God as depicted in the Bible. However as we learn more about God so that we may grow in our relationship, appreciation and adoration of Him, there is one fact that seems to always raise its head – there are some aspects of Him and His plan/work/nature that we in our finite thinking and understanding will never fully grasp.
We shouldn’t be surprised at this. Although humans are made in God’s image (), and thus have the privilege of representing God on Earth, we are not God ourselves. We are not all knowing (Omniscient). We are not the creators and sustainers of all creation. We are not eternal in our existence. Yet despite these obvious limitations, it’s not uncommon for people to fill in the blanks based on our own perception of what we think God should be like and how He should operate. Rather, we should accept there are some aspects of God we will never fully understand.
Two examples of the mystery of God at work, both in His nature and how He operates are as follows:
1) His nature – The Trinity
The teaching of the trinity in the Bible refers to God as three distinct beings, but at the same time one God – God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This truth highlights that in His very nature, God treasures and operates through relationships.
The studying the Trinity is fascinating. We learn that each person of the Trinity has distinct roles in seeing God’s plans fulfilled as well as appearing to display a perfectly harmonious, edifying, effective and authoritative order.
The Father determines what will occur (, 12:49-50). The Son is the agent by which this is done, both in creating and sustaining all of Creation (, ). He was sent by the Father () to redeem us to God through His sacrifice on the cross for our sins (, 2 Cor5:21). The Holy Spirit is the agent of change within the world, working within Christians to see to it they come to faith in Christ and reflect Jesus more and more in their lives ( , ). He is sent into the world by the Father and Son (). Each person perfectly supports and enables the other to achieve their function, displaying perfect unity and fulfillment with one another. There are others functions of each person, but the point is that their function/role is to bring glory to God.
As amazing as this is, there is clearly a degree of mystery as to how this can be. It doesn’t seem possible… three persons but one? All fully God. How can that be?
2) How God operates – our salvation
Our salvation has a large degree of mystery behind it, particularly with the marrying up of two seemingly different agents.
- Our requirement to come to faith in Christ and need to repent and obey (, , ) with that of
- God’s sovereign election and preservation of those who come to faith (, , ). God chooses and calls those who are saved (), but at the same time holds us accountable to taking the active choice in repenting and trusting in Him ().
I am not about to try and enter into a debate here, but rather to say that the Bible teaches both, therefore if we are going to trust, honour and glorify God, then we need to submit to those teachings and not just take the parts that we are more comfortable with or might understand better.
I will say one thing though. In trying to work through these integral, yet challenging teachings, one plumb line I always use to try and allow God to keep me on the right line of thinking is this – does what I believe glorify God alone, rather than anything else or myself.
In the teaching of election, it’s according to God’s good and sovereign plan and workings alone that we are able to come to faith in Christ and to persevere in that faith. Without God choosing and ‘calling’ us, we in our own capacity would not be able to have faith in God. Otherwise we could is some small way take some of the credit. clearly teaches otherwise. Our salvation is a work of God alone.
In the process of us having faith and being conformed into Christ’s image, we need to acknowledge that it’s only by God’s gracious work in our lives that we have the capacity to do so. Yes we choose to follow and obey God. Yes we choose to persevere in our faith and turn from what the world loves. Yes we make sacrifices every day in doing so. Yet this is merely the fruit or evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in us, not a result of just our own volition and will. Without the work and empowering of the Holy Spirit, we will not repent and come to faith in Christ, let alone persevere in our faith (). The perseverance in our faith does not earn us our salvation or credit us more than others to be with God, but rather it’s the evidence of our salvation, that God has transformed our hearts. ie that our salvation is sincere and not just a ‘phase in life’ ( , , , , ).
The Mystery of God Reminds us we are not God
I know I have brushed over some very deep and complex teachings of the Bible in this post and my purpose is not to profess to being a scholar or know all the answers. Rather it is to highlight that in our finite understanding we need to come to a point where we acknowledge the reality of things in that God is God and we are not! God gives us everything we need to know to put our hope and trust in Him, but at the same time humbly reminds us that we don’t have all the answers.
May we all have the faith when faced with the mystery of God to step back and simply marvel at all He is and remember what we are not.
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27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”
19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,
26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.
10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:
16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.
4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.