This Sunday I conclude the BECAUSE HE IS series. Each of the six instalments of this series has dealt with a truth about God. My hope throughout the series so far has been that I might introduce those unfamiliar or less acquainted with God to experience a richer, deeper and more intimate knowledge of Him. My motive for doing this has been to lead someone who had never loved God to come to gladly love Him — and for those who were in like of God to become besotted with their love for God. I have repeatedly said throughout this series so far that I have not wanted this to be merely a series of lectures or just interesting information for your fancy. (Added to this, I have confessed that Kim has forbidden me from lecturing this series!) But now, as I prepare to conclude this series this Sunday, I want to give you some of the theological background behind what I consider to be one of the most important series of sermons I have delivered. There was a time when theology (the study of God) was considered the “the Queen of the sciences” from which all knowledge flowed making every other ’ology a subset of Theology.
Therefore you are great, O LORD God. For there is none like You, and there is no God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears. Second Samuel 7:22
The first part of this series was simply called Because He Is. If I was to have lectured on this topic it would have been on the topic of ‘ontology’ – a philosophical-theological lecture. Ontology comes from two Greek words, ontos – which means “being, person, is”; and logos – which means “reason” from which we get the English suffix –ology (‘the study of’). Ontology is therefore the study of (the ultimate) reality. When Thomas Aquinas, a Medieval theologian, developed a set of proofs for the existence of God, he began with ontology. He reasoned that because anything was it must have had a being behind it. Since we can all verify that this world is, we can verify what Aquinas stated – that there must be a Being behind it. We can also verify that this world is operates on certain principles such as fixed chemical reactions, gravity, decay, objective moral laws, planetary order. We refer to something that is obviously true or factual as “ontologically true”. Therefore, for Aquinas, the answer to the philosophical question, “How do we prove God exists?” was, “We know God exists because He is.”
And Asa cried to the LORD his God, “O LORD, there is none like You to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on You, and in Your Name we have come against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; let not man prevail against You.” Second Chronicles 14:11
The study of who God is, His nature, His unique attributes, His unique acts, His character, and His essence, is known as Theology Proper. I have spent the best part of the last four decades focusing on the study of this academic discipline, and yet, I still have much more to learn. The preeminent quality of God from which each of His afore mentioned aspects flows out of, is holiness. God is holy. Before we think of God as love, almighty, just, or wise, we must appreciate that He is holy — not like the human attribution inappropriately given to cities or landmarks or so-called shrines or false religious leaders — God’s holiness is almost incomprehensibly unique. God is holy means that He is: distinct, sacred, special, impeccably pure, infinitely uncommon, perfectly good.
“Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your Name? For You alone are holy. All nations will come and worship You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed.” Revelation 15:4
When French theologian and lawyer, John Calvin, sought to correct the flagrant misrepresentations of his day about God and His deeds, he based his research on the Apostles’ Creed, the Scriptures in their original languages, and the works of several ancient Church Fathers, especially Augustine of Hippo. The result of his research was a mammoth four-volume work known in English as The Institutes of The Christian Religion. He divided his work into four sections: (i) About God The Father as Creator and Redeemer; (ii) About God The Son as Saviour and Revealer of the Father; (iii) About God The Holy Spirit as the Agent of Redemption through raising Christ from the dead, and regenerating the redeemed; and, (iv) About the Church as the Spirit-empowered community of the redeemed. To understand God necessarily leads to understanding that He is the Redeemer by whom we can only be, and must be, saved from our sin, reconciled to God, and be eternally pardoned. To accept God’s offer of rescue is to be delivered from the darkness of our alienation into the light of our adoption and fellowship with God and the community of the redeemed. This community is known as the Ecclesia – the Church. The theological study of God’s redemption plan is known as ecclesiology.
Even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace…And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:4-7, 22-23
God is the Source of all goodness and blessing and is therefore worthy of all glory and praise. The Greek word for glory is doxa. In some church worship services they will close by pronouncing the doxology which literally means “words of praise”. For the one who comes to know God there is a reflex to want to worship God with praise and adoration. Human beings are created by the All-Glorious God to worship Him. Sin distorts this uniquely human characteristic by deceiving people into worshiping the created rather than the Creator.
For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. ¶ Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. Romans 1:21-25
The closing book of the Bible paints a picture of the culmination of redemption where the redeemed give God glory by attributing to Him every blessing they have received, by singing –
Saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” Revelation 5:12-13
One of the Greek words for knowledge is ‘episteme’ from which we get the term epistemology which is the study of how we come to know. In the realm of theology, although episteme does not occur in the Bible, epistemology pertains to how we know the truth about God. The Bible declares that God is the true God and that He is the Source of truth. This truth can be known by: (i) reliable testimony; (ii) verifiable accounts, particularly found in the Scriptures; (iii) direct encounters; (iv) direct revelation including hearing the voice of God or divine dreams; (v) philosophical contemplation such as considering creation needing a Creator (and similar to what Aquinas did); and, (vi) otherwise inexplicable answers to secret prayers to God.
And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. John 17:3
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6
The Christian claims about God are true — not a different kind of ‘true’ to what a reasonable person would consider true, but the kind of true that is, as Francis Schaeffer described as — true truth! Therefore, Christianity’s historical truth claims can be verified. Christianity’s philosophical truth claims can be reasoned. Christianity’s subjective truth claims can be experienced. Christianity’s scientific truth claims can be tested.
This Sunday I conclude the Because He Is series with Because He Is Life. Soteriology comes from the Greek word soterios which is translated into English as ‘salvation’, thus, soteriology is the study of salvation.
With each of the messages in this series there has been a “so what” element. When I map a sermon series out, often months before I preach it, I always ask the “So what?” question as I sketch it out. As you can see from the picture of my sticky-note in my Bible, next to the start of First Peter, for this series I actually began with the “so what” elements of each instalment. These “so whats” are the implications of each of these ‘ologies’ in the Because He Is series. Because He is holy, the Apostle Peter tells us we should be holy.
But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” First Peter 1:15-16
This Sunday, perhaps one of the greatest “So what?” moments that any church could hope for will be publicly demonstrated as baptise people who have accepted God’s offer of forgiveness and redemption. You will also notice that I have mined just one passage from First Peter to draw out each of these ‘ologies’. It is my hope that as you hear my heart to convey the richness of the treasure of knowing God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, your confidence in the God of the Bible will be buttressed not just by good theology grounded in Scripture, but in the fact that you have come to know Him in truth for yourself. This Sunday will not be a lecture, and perhaps by now you can see why, and we may all humbly say along with Job –
I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:5-6
Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.