Sermon: Selected Texts: The Perfections of God

Old Testament Reading: Micah 5

“Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike the judge of Israel on the cheek. But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace. When the Assyrian comes into our land and treads in our palaces, then we will raise against him seven shepherds and eight princes of men; they shall shepherd the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod at its entrances; and he shall deliver us from the Assyrian when he comes into our land and treads within our border. Then the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many peoples like dew from the Lord, like showers on the grass, which delay not for a man nor wait for the children of man. And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the nations, in the midst of many peoples, like a lion among the beasts of the forest, like a young lion among the flocks of sheep, which, when it goes through, treads down and tears in pieces, and there is none to deliver.  Your hand shall be lifted up over your adversaries, and all your enemies shall be cut off. And in that day, declares the Lord, I will cut off your horses from among you and will destroy your chariots; and I will cut off the cities of your land and throw down all your strongholds; and I will cut off sorceries from your hand, and you shall have no more tellers of fortunes; and I will cut off your carved images and your pillars from among you, and you shall bow down no more to the work of your hands; and I will root out your Asherah images from among you and destroy your cities. And in anger and wrath I will execute vengeance on the nations that did not obey.” (Micah 5, ESV)

New Testament Reading: Matthew 2:1-12

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’’ Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.’ After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.” (Matthew 2:1–12, ESV)


We are fixing our eyes upon the wonder of the incarnation during this Advent season.  And it is a wonder, wouldn’t you agree? It is a marvelous thing to thinking about – it is a great mystery. How could it be that God – more specifically, the eternal Word of God – did, when the fulness of time had come, take upon himself humanity, in the person of Jesus Christ. Our minds creak and groan under the weight of such a thought. But this is precisely what we are considering this Advent season: God with us; Emmanuel; Jesus the God-man; the wonder of the incarnation.

And we are considering the incarnation, not by moving through one of the birth narratives contained within the gospels, as great as that approach would be, but theologically. We are considering the incarnation topically. We are asking the question, what do the scriptures in their entirety demand that we think concerning Jesus of Nazareth. Who was he? What was he? And what did he come to accomplish according to the scriptures?


Remember that we began this brief, four week mini-series last week, not by going immediately to the birth of Jesus, and not by talking about him – but by considering God himself as he has existed for all eternity – Father, Word, and Holy Spirit.  The reason is this: it is would difficult, if not impossible, to think clearly about God incarnate – that is, God in the flesh, or God with us – without first learning to think clearly about God himself as he has existed for all eternity.

Seven points were made last week concerning the nature of God. Let me review them briefly for the sake of tying last weeks sermon to this one. Here are seven things that need to be said concerning God:

  1. God Is incomprehensible. We know God truly because he has revealed something of himself to us, but we certainly do not know him exhaustively.
  2. God is Triune. There is only one true God, and yet the scripture reveal that the one true God exists eternally in three persons (or subsistences) God the Father, God the Son (or Word), and God the Holy Spirit. The three are each fully God, and yet their is only one God. For a more complete statement concerning this see the London Baptist Confession chapter 2
  3. God is a most pure spirit. He is not physical. He does not have a body. Jesus put it this way: “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24, ESV)
  4. God is of himself. He is self-existent. No one made God. No one sustains God. God does not stand in need of anyone, or anything, outside of himself for his existence. He is of himself.
  5. God is infinite. He is infinite in regard to time – he is eternal, without beginning or end. He is infinite in regard to space – he is omnipresent, being at once in all places fully. He is infinite in regard to power – he is omnipotent; there is nothing outside of his sovereign power. Nothing constrains, or frustrates God. He is Lord Most High. He is the Sovereign.
  6. God is unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He does not grow or learn or improve. He does repent (though he may appear to repent from our vantage point). God does not have mood swings. He is not given to passions as you and I are. He is not given to fits of rage as you and I sometimes are. Humans may come to experience God’s wrath at times, and at other times find themselves awash in his mercy. But this is not a change in God properly speaking. We experience change. God does not change in his essence.
  7. God is simple. This does not mean that he is easy to understand, but rather that God is not composed of parts. He is not a composite being as you and I are. He does not have a body and a soul as you and I do, for example. The easiest way to say it is that everything that is in God is God. With you and I it is different. We are not simple, but complex. We are made up of parts. If my soul were to leave my body it would not be totally true to say of my soul-less body, “there is Joe”, for that would only be a part of me. God is not composed of parts like that. All that is in God is God. He is utterly simple. More on that another time.

That is all review. My objective last week was this: to hurl these massive concepts in your direction so as to make God large in your minds and hearts, as he ought to be. It is right for the Christian to think high thoughts of God. He ought to blow our minds. He ought to loom large. It is right that we stand in awe of him. It is right for us to confess that God is incomprehensible. He is beyond us!

Concerning this, the great Reformed theologian, Herman Bavinck, has this to say:

“Scripture and the church emphatically assert the unreachable majesty and sovereign highness of God. There is no knowledge of God as he is in himself. We are human and he is the Lord our God. There is no name that fully expresses his being, no definition that captures him. He infinitely transcends our picture of him, our ideas of him, our language concerning him. He is not comparable to any creature. All the nations are accounted by him as less than nothing and vanity. He can be apprehended; he cannot be comprehended. There is some knowledge, but no thorough grasp of God.” (Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, pg. 47)

A bit later Bavinck quotes St. Augustine, who says,

“We are speaking of God. Is it little wonder if you do not comprehend? For if you comprehend, it is not God you comprehend. Let it be a pious confession of ignorance rater than a rash profession of knowledge. To attain some slight knowledge of God is a great blessing; to comprehend him, however, is totally impossible.” (Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, pg. 48)

The God of the Bible is the one true and living God, and he is majestic. He is full of glory and splendor and might. So glorious is he that he is beyond our ability to fully comprehend.

But in the moment these truths are proclaimed something else must be said. This great and glorious God is a personal God. He is YHWH, the covenant making and covenant keeping God. He he is the God who enters into relationship with his creatures. He is our heavenly Father. We can know him. We do not know him in the way that he knows us – thoroughly. And we do not know him in the way that he knows himself – exhaustively. But we can know him truly.

So how can these two things be true? How can it be that the unknowable One can be known? How can it be that God is at once transcendent, and yet imminentHigh and exalted, and yet near?

The answer is this: God Almighty has determined to revealed himself to us. He has unveiled himself. He has disclosed himself. He has stooped down low and whispered to us in language that we can understand.

Calvin puts it this way, asking the question,

“For who is so devoid of intellect as not to understand that God, in so speaking, lisps with us as nurses are wont to do with little children? Such modes of expression, therefore, do not so much express what kind of a being God is, as accommodate the knowledge of him to our feebleness. In doing so, he must, of course, stoop far below his proper height. (John Calvin, Institutes, vol. 1, pg. 147.)

God, in order to reveal himself to us, has stooped low. He has come down to our level. And how has God stooped low for us? He walked with Adam and Even in the garden. He spoke to Abraham in human language so that he might understand. He revealed something of his glory to Moses in the bush, and as he was placed in the cleft of the rock. The people saw his glory on the mountain and in the temple. He spoke through the prophets. And he spoke to us supremely and finally through Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son. We have the inspired and Holy Scriptures which are a record and application of these revelatory acts of God in human history. In these ways God has stooped low. He makes himself known through his creation, through his acts, and through his words. He has condescended to us.

So how is it that we can know the Unknowable One? The answer is that he, in his grace and mercy has revealed himself to us. It is only because of this fact – the fact of revelation – that we are able to say anything meaningful and sure about God at all.

Brothers and sisters, do you not see that to think of God is the highest and most noble activity of the human mind. Let us then continue our consideration of God Most High.

Incommunicable Attributes 

I suppose that most of the things said about God last week could be put under the category of God’s incommunicable attributes. Have you heard of this term before? The incommunicable attributes of God are those qualities of God that he does not share with man. And by share I do not mean that he does not tell us about them. What I mean is that we do not possess these attributes of God ourselves, given our creatureliness. If you remember back to the sermon from last Sunday I would pause from time to time and say, ‘such and such is true of God, but you and I are not like this’. God is omnipresent, for example, and we are not. God is simple; we are not. God is unchanging; we are not. These are qualities that belong to God alone. He does not share them with us in any way.  The only attribute mentioned last week that might not properly belong under the “incommunicable” category is God as most pure spirit. God is spirit, and we too have a spirit, or soul. The difference between he and us in this regard is that he is a most pure spirit, whereas we consist of body and soul, body and spirit.

Communicable Attributes

And so God as most pure spirit probably belongs under the category that we will turn our attention to today. There are other attributes of God that fall under the category of God’s communicable attributes. As you might guess,these are attributes of God which he, in some ways, does share with us. Of course God possess these attributes perfectly so, whereas we possess them in some small degree, and that by his mercy and grace.

So what are they? I will only have time to mention three this morning. And because I only have time to mention three, I will confine myself to three of the moral attributes of God.

God Is Good

The first is this: God is good.

He is Good In Himself 

And when we speak of the goodness of God it is important that we first of all confess that God is good in and of himself.

It is not only that God does good, therefore we call him good. And it is not that he is useful to us, therefore we consider him to be good. No, more that, God is good in and of himself. He is good through and through. He is good all the time. He is good in an absolute sense. He is good in his essence.

You and I may do good from time to time, but it cannot be said of us that we are good through and through.

And we may designate people or things as good due to their usefulness to us. We say that a car is a good car when it functions well and meets our need. We call a friend a good friend when he or she preforms the duties of friend in a way that is useful.

And though it is true that God does good, and is a benefit to his people, we mean more than this when we say that God is good. He is good in himself. He is good through and through. He is good all the time, and in every way.  

A man might be called a good man. He may do good things.  And this, of course, is by the grace of God. But the scriptures tell us that “No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18, ESV) Only God is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Only he is good in a pure and absolute sense.

He is Good for Others

It should also be acknowledged that, not only is God good in and of himself, but he is also good for others. Nothing is better for men and women, boys and girls, than to know God, who is the Supreme Good. He has “all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself” (LBC 2.2). And we are most blessed when we know him.

He is our highest good. He is the supreme good for all his creatures. We are to enjoy him – find our satisfaction in him – take pleasure in him above all created things. Oh, that we would agree with the Psalmist when he says, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:25–26, ESV) Not only is God good in and of himself, but he is also good for us. He alone is the good to be enjoyed.

God Does Good To Us 

And we must also confess that this good God who himself is good for us also does good to us. He is the overflowing fountain of all goodness. Bavinck says, that all good, be it “natural, moral, [or]  spiritual… finds its source in him.” (Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, pg. 213) James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”


God shows his goodness to those who are misery. The scriptures refer to this as God’s mercy. Mercy is God showing kindness or compassion to those who are needy either by not giving them what they deserve, or by doing good to them despite their unreservedness.

Lamentations 3:21-25: “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.”


The goodness of God is also displayed in his patience towards us. When God spares those who deserve punishment it is called patience or forbearance. Paul, in Romans 2:4, asks the sinner this question: “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?” (Romans 2:4, ESV)


When God is good to someone who only deserves evil the Bible calls that grace. Grace is God showing undeserved favor. There is a way in which God shows grace to all men. He does good to all, though none are deserving. He causes it to rain on the the just and the unjust alike, for example. We may call this common grace – that is God doing good to all in a general sense. But it is more precise to see that God shows grace to some, and not all. He shows undeserved favor to his people. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, ESV) And, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians 2:8, ESV)


The highest demonstration of God’s goodness to man is when he gives, not only good things, but himself to man. When God does good to a person in this ultimate since, bringing men and women, boys and and girls, into relationship with himself, the scriptures refer to this as the love of God. Those who know God – those who have been brought into a good and proper relationship with God through Christ Jesus – are called the beloved. They are the ones loved of God.

God is good. He is good in and of himself. He is good for his creatures. And he is good to his creatures as he demonstrates his goodness through acts of mercy, patience, grace, and love.

God Is Holy

The second thing to be said about God’s moral attributes is that he is holy.

He is holy in that he is set apart from us and from all evil.

He is set apart from us in that he alone is God. He is glorious and beyond compare. When the Prophet Isaiah was given a glimpse of the glory of God he heard the angels sing,“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3, ESV) He is holy in that he is set apart from us, high and lifted up.

And he is holy in that he is set apart from all sin.  “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5, ESV) He is holy, pure, undefiled. He resists all that opposes him.

This is why holiness is demanded of God’s people. The unholy are at odds with the holy God. The holy are embraced by him. God is holy in himself. He is holy, pure, undefiled. But he also demands holiness from his people.

The end goal of redemption, or salvation, it to bring a holy people, into a holy place, into the presence of the holy God.

God Is Righteous

The third of God’s moral and communicable attributes is this: God is righteous.

The righteousness of God is certainly connected with his holiness. Not only is God holy, and not only does he demand holiness, but he forever does what it right.

He is righteous in and of himself. He does what is right always, and forever because he is the righteous king and judge of all things.

God, the righteous judge, rewards those who are righteous and punishes those who are wicked. He does so even now. But he will do so finally and fully and perfectly at the end of the age.

We love to speak of the goodness of God, do we not? We are fond of his mercy, patience, grace and love. These are pleasant things for us to speak of. We even enjoy speaking of the holiness of God, so long as we confine the conversation to the holiness of God himself, and ignore it’s relational implications and the demands that God’s holiness makes upon us. But men and women often neglect to speak of God’s righteousness. If any of God’s attributes are neglected in Christian teaching today, it is righteousness that is rejected. We love to think of him as loving heavenly Father; but the scriptures also reveal him as God Almighty who will one day judge the world in righteousness.

Listen to how Paul warned the heathens in Athens as he preached to them, saying,

“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30–31, ESV)

Bothers and sisters, God is good, God is holy, and God is righteous. This third attribute must not be ignored.

The righteousness of God should serve as a great comfort to those who are righteous in Christ Jesus who mourn the wickedness that they see in the world. Is it not comforting to know that God will do right? He will make all things right. He is judging in righteousness even now as he continues to display is mercy and patience. But the day will come when he will pour out his wrath in perfect righteousness. This should be a comfort to the people of God.

At the same time, the righteousness of God should cause the sinner to tremble. It should indeed lead the sinner to repent, to turn from sin, and to trust fully in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Imagine standing before God, holy, awesome and glorious, as he is. And imagine standing before him in your sins. Friends, you do not want to stand before the holy and righteous God in your sins. That you will stand before his is certain. You will want to stand before him in Christ, clothed in his righteousness, and washed by his blood.  


So what difference do these truths make in our lives?

First of all, it should be noticed that these moral and communicable attributes of God call us to strive, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to be like him. God is good, and holy, and righteous. We too are to be good, and holy, and righteous.

Listen to Peter: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 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.” (1 Peter 1:14–16, ESV)

These truths concerning God call us to be as our heavenly Father is. As a child mimics his earthly Father, so too we are to mimic our heavenly Father where we are able.

Secondly, in the moment we hear the call to be holy, or, to be good, or, to be righteous as God is, does that not crush us? We think to ourselves, how could I possibly reach that standard. The truth of the matter is that through we are to strive to reach that standard, we will never reach it on our own. As we gaze upon the truth of who God is it should drive us to our knees, making us all the more aware of our need for help. We need a Savior. We need atonement, forgiveness, cleaning. When Isaiah was given a glimpse of the holiness of God his response was this: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5, ESV)

Brothers and sisters, as we gaze upon the splendor and majesty of God almighty it move us to fear. It should compel to cry out for mercy and grace.

Thirdly, a careful consideration of these truths concerning God prepares us to understand the incarnation. Perhaps another way to say it is that it is these truths about God that made the incarnation necessary, given the fact of human sin.

Why was it necessary for the eternal Son of God to take upon himself man’s nature in the person of Jesus Christ? Well it is due to this fact – God is holy and righteous and we are sinners. He is holy, and demands holiness from his people. He is righteous, and must judge rightly, punishing the wicked and rewarding the just. This is bad news for fallen human beings, for the scriptures reveal that there is “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10–12, ESV) God was not obligated to save us from this predicament. He was not bound to lift us from this condition of despair.

But there is good news for us. God is good. He is merciful and gracious. And it is the goodness of God – the love of God – that motivated the sending of the Son to die for the sins of man. It is the goodness of God that motivated the incarnation and the atoning work of Christ.

“For God so loved the world [men and woman , that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16–17, ESV)

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Sermon: Selected Texts: The Nature of God

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 7:1–17

“In the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah, Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not yet mount an attack against it. When the house of David was told, ‘Syria is in league with Ephraim,’ the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.  And the Lord said to Isaiah, “Go out to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Washer’s Field. And say to him, ‘Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, at the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah. Because Syria, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has devised evil against you, saying, ‘Let us go up against Judah and terrify it, and let us conquer it for ourselves, and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it’, thus says the Lord God: ‘It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin. And within sixty-five years Ephraim will be shattered from being a people. And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.’ Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, ‘Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.’ But Ahaz said, ‘I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.’ And he said, ‘Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. The Lord will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria…’” (Isaiah 7:1–17, ESV)

New Testament Reading: Matthew 1:18-25

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:18–25, ESV)


Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Many churches around the world celebrate Advent as a way of encouraging the people of God to focus upon the significance of the birth of Christ. It is a good tradition, I think, but not a mandatory one. If my memory serves me right, we did not do much in 2014 to mark the Advent season. The reason, I think, was to make the point that we are not obligated, biblically speaking, to observe such a tradition.

It should be recognized that we really do not know the date of Jesus’ birth. In fact, it is likely that Jesus was born in the spring time, and not in the winter, given what we are told about the shepherds keeping watch over the sheep at night in the open fields.

Nevertheless, I do think that the tradition of celebrating the birth of Christ is a good one. The coming of the Christ, after all, was the most significant event in human history. He came, he lived, he died, and he rose again. We set this season apart in order to give special attention to his coming.

I suppose there are many ways to preach during Advent. The most common is to move through the birth narrative of either Matthew or Luke. Mark does not contain a birth narrative; his gospel begins with the ministry of John the Baptist. And John’s “birth narrative” is really not a narrative at all, but rather a succinct statement of fact: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…”,  verse 14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1,14, ESV) All four gospels, though, emphasize the fact of the incarnation in one way or another. And this indeed is a good and proper thing for us to fix our minds upon during this Advent season – the incarnation.

The word incarnation means to embody in the flesh, or, to take on flesh. When we use the word incarnation in the context of Christian theology we are talking about this fact, that “The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father’s glory, of one substance and equal with him who made the world, who [upholds] and [governs] all things he [has] made, did, when the fullness of time [had] come, take upon [himself] man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her: and the power of the Most High overshadowing her; and so was made of a woman of the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham and David according to the Scriptures; so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures [the human and divine] were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion; which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.” (London Baptist Confession 8.2).

This is the doctrine of the incarnation. The person of Jesus Christ was and is God and man. He is Immanuel, which means, God with us. The doctrine of the incarnation is a most basic and fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith, wouldn’t you agree? And yet it is highly mysterious, and often misunderstood.

It is the incarnation that I would like to focus upon during this Advent season. And I would like to focus on it, not by working through the birth narrative in Matthew or Luke, but theologically. I typically preach through the Bible exegetically, moving through books of the Bible verse by verse. But here I would like to approach the doctrine of the incarnation in a topical, or theological manner.  I think it is good to take this approach from time to time, especially when clarity, or depth of understanding is needed in particular area. And I think that is the case here.

We all confess with one voice that Jesus is divine. Amen? We agree with Paul who says of Jesus, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily…” (Colossians 2:9, ESV) We agree with Thomas who, after being convinced of the reality of the resurrection of Jesus, spoke to Jesus, saying, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28, ESV)

Jesus is God. This is indeed true! But may I suggest to you that more needs to be said if we are speak with precision and clarity concerning God, and of the Christ whom he sent.

I want you to think about the statement, Jesus is God. It a true statement, wouldn’t you agree? But now imagine that you know nothing about the God of the Bible. Imagine being a non-believer who has had very little interaction with the church, or with Christians. You’ve heard of Jesus. You know that he was a Jewish man who lived about 2,000 years ago. But beyond that, you know little about what the Bible has to say about God. Imagine being in that position. And then imagine hearing a Christian say, Jesus is God. Period. What then would be your view of the Christian God? How would you think of him? Would you not then assume that Christians believe that God is a Jewish man with a beard?

This is, of course, not what we mean when we make the statement, “Jesus is God”. But it illustrates the point that more needs to be said concerning Jesus if we are to, first of all, speak about him with precision, and secondly, speak of the one true God, with clarity. To speak of Jesus Christ imprecisely, carelessly, and in an incomplete way will do damage in two ways: one, we will fail to communicate the truth of who Jesus was and is; and two, we will fail to communicate the the truth of who God is in his essential nature.

This is what I would like to address with you over the next few weeks. I would like for us to fix our minds upon the mystery of the incarnation. I call it a mystery because it is indeed a truth that is difficult (impossible) for our finite minds to comprehend. We can confess that the incarnation is true. We can lean to speak of it in a precise way so as not to bring error or unnecessary confusion to the conversation. But we will never fully comprehend how it is that the Eternal “Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity…did, when the fullness of time [had] come, [took] upon [himself] man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin…” This is indeed our confession. And our confession is indeed true, as it summarizes the teaching of Holy Scripture. We should learn to speak of Jesus with the same precision demonstrated here, all the while acknowledging that this is indeed a high mystery.

Only four sermons will be devoted to this topic during the 2015 Advent season. My hope is it to, Lord willing, teach on this topic in much greater depth in the Emmaus Essentials Sunday School hour after we finish our study of Eschatology. Maybe this sermon series will whet the appetite?

In this first sermon we will consider the nature of God himself. In the second we will consider the attributes of God. In third sermon we will consider the person of Jesus Christ. And in the fourth we will look upon the work of Christ. I hope that you are edified through what you hear, and are moved to worship and adore the one true God, and the Christ whom he has sent.

Now, I think you would agree that if we are to understand the incarnation – that is the Son of God, or the Word of God, come in the flesh – we had better first of all know something of God as he is in his essence.  To say it another way, it would most difficult to think clearly about God incarnate without first of thinking clearly about God as he was, is, and always will be in his essential nature.  And so that is what I am asking you to have in your mind today – God. God as he was and is and will forever be. We will come to consider the person of Christ the week after next, but for now I would ask you set your minds upon the one true God.

I have seven statements to make concerning the only living and true God. I will not be able to elaborate much at all upon each of these grand and glorious truths. My hope is that they will set our minds in the right direction, and lead us to praise.

God Is Incomprehensible

The first thing that should be said about God as we consider his essential nature is that he is incomprehensible. This means that he cannot be comprehended by us. He is beyond our ability to understand.

You may be thinking to yourself, this is a most unusual way to begin our consideration of God. It would seem that it if this is the first thing we are to say about God, it should also be the last. After all, if we cannot comprehend God then what is the point of saying another word about him?

But this would be a misunderstanding of the doctrine of incomprehensibility. It is true, our finite minds are not able to comprehend God fully. We, as creatures, cannot know the creator exhaustively. But we may know him truly. And how can it be that we are able to know the incomprehensible God truly? Well, it is because he has chosen to reveal himself to us. He has revealed himself to us through the world. Better yet, he has revealed him to us through his word. And most important of all, he has revealed himself to us through the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord. It is because of revelation – it is because God has determined to make himself known to us – that we are able to know God truly.

But in the moment we say that God has revealed himself to us truly we ought to again confess that he is incomprehensible. We ought to remember that revelation in all of it’s forms is an act of condescension of God towards us. He stoops low for us that we might know something of him. He displays his power and glory through the created world. He speaks to us in words that we can understand. He came to us clothed in humanity. In all of these forms of revelation we learn something true of God – he has revealed himself truly –  but never should we make the mistake of thinking that he has revealed himself exhaustively. He speaks speaks to us by way of analogy. He reveals himself to us by telling us his names. He reveals himself through his actions in human history. All revelation reveals God truly, but never exhaustively.

In Exodus 33 Moses spoke to God saying, “Please show me your glory.” (Exodus 33:18, ESV) God responded to Moses, saying, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But, he said, ‘you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.’” (Exodus 33:19–20, ESV)

Brothers and sisters, God does not have a face. Nor does he have a back, though that is what we are told that Moses saw after God had passed by – Moses saw the back of God. He has neither a face nor a back, but here human terminology is used to tell us something true about Moses’ experience. Did Moses see God truly? Indeed! Did God revealed himself to Moses when he passed by and showed him is “back”? Yes, this was true revelation! But did Moses see God in the fullness of his glory? Did he see God’s face, if you will? No, he saw God’s back. In other words God revealed himself to Moses in a way that Moses could handle, “For man shall not see [God in his essence] and live.”

God reminds us of the distance between he and us when he says through Isaiah the prophet, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8–9, ESV)

God, in his mercy and grace, has revealed himself to us so that we might know him truly, but we must never forget that he is nevertheless incomprehensible.

This is the proper place to start as we set out to talk about God as he is in his essence. It is the hight of arrogance to imagine that we creatures – and worse than that, fallen creatures as we are – have somehow managed to conquer God with our minds; as if we have wrapped our minds around him in all of his splendor and glory.

With this as our foundation we may move forward, saying things that are true of God, but only because these things have been revealed to us.

God Is Triune

The second thing to know about God as he is in his essence is that he is triune. It is a good thing that we started with the incomprehensibility of God, for this is certainly a truth beyond our ability to comprehend. We can confess it as true. We can learn to speak of it with care, so that we do not say something untrue. But our minds have trouble comprehending the triune God, as he is revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures.

We teach our children the doctrine by asking them this question: “Are there more gods than one?” And they answer us with these words: “There is but one only, the living and true God.”

This is indeed a faithful summery of what the scriptures teach. Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Jeremiah 10:10  says, “But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation.”

It is hard to miss the fact that the Bible teaches that there is only one living and true God. All other gods, are not gods at all. Men always have and always will replace the worship of the one living and true God with the worship of created things. These are the other gods mentioned in the scriptures. They are created things that men and women have determined to worship. But in reality there is only one true God.

But then we ask our children another question: “How many persons are there in the Godhead?”, we ask. And they are taught to reply,  “There are three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one God, the same in essence, equal in power and glory. (1 Cor. 8:6; John 10:30; John 14:9; Acts 5:3,4; Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14)

I will not take the time to demonstrate to you from the scriptures the truth of this doctrine. A simple reading of the Old Testament, but especially the New, reveals that, though there exists but one true God, this God eternally exists in three persons. The Father is God, the Son, or the Word, is God, and the Spirit is God. All are to be worshiped, all are to be prayed to, all possess the attributes of God, and are said to be of the “stuff” of divinity, and yet there is only one God.

The language of persons can actually mislead us if we are not careful. When we refer to God as existing eternally in three persons it can lead some to think of three separate people, or personalities, in the Godhead. It is wrong to think of God divided up in parts like that. Concerning the language of persons, Augustine has famously said, “When the question is asked: three what? human language labors altogether under great poverty of speech. The answer however is given ‘three persons’, not that it might be spoken but that it might not be left unspoken.” The point is that this Trinity is a great mystery. Human language is not well suited to speak of the mysteries of God.

Our confession speaks in this way: “In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, the Father, the Word or Son, and Holy Spirit, of one substance, power, and eternity, each having the whole divine essence, yet the essence undivided: the Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son; all infinite, without beginning, therefore but one God, who is not to be divided in nature and being, but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties and personal relations; which doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence on him.” (London Baptist Confession 2.3)

This is the one true God as he is revealed to us in scripture. May we adore him forever.

God Is A Most Pure Spirit

The third thing to be known about God as he is in his essence is that he is a most pure spirit. Brothers and sisters, God does not have a body. Jesus has a body, but he is God incarnate – God with us – the Son of God who assumed humanity for us, to redeem us from our sins. God, as he is in his essence, is a most pure spirit, without body, parts, or passions.

Was Jesus not clear when he said that “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24, ESV) Or listen to how Paul praises God “the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, [to him] be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17, ESV)

Brothers and sisters, it is wrong for us to think of God as if he were nothing more than a bigger and better version of us. He is different than us. He belongs to another order of being. He is the creator, we the creature. He is divine, we are human. We are fleshly, he is a most pure spirit for all eternity.

God Is Of Himself

The fourth thing to be said of God is that he is of himself. By this I mean that he is self existent. He depends upon no one or no thing for his existence. He is of himself.

You and I are dependent creatures. In fact all things, besides God himself, are dependent creatures. We owe our existence to God. He created us. Not only that, he also sustains us. To use Paul’s language, it is “In him [that] we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28, ESV) But God is of himself. He is self existent. No one created God. No one brought him into being. No one sustains him. He is in need of no one or nothing outside of himself. He simply is. 

It is this fact that stands behind the mysterious name that God revealed to Moses in the burning bush. Moses wanted to know what name he should call God by as he spoke to the people of Israel. “God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14, ESV) What is meant by this name? It is that God is. He is the self existent one.

God is Infinite

The fifth thing to be said about our God is that he is infinite. This means that he is without limit.

We may speak of God’s infinity in regard to time. When thinking in terms of time we must confess that God is eternal. He is without beginning or end. He is not bound by time, but stands outside of it as its creator. You and I had a beginning. The earth had a beginning. The universe began to exist when God spoke that original creative word. Everything that exists has limits to existence, God created all things visible and inviable. But God is infinite. He is eternal, without beginning or end.

We may also speak of God’s infinity in regard to space. God is at once in all places fully. This is not to say that he is so big that there is a piece of him in every part of the universe – his head over there, his foot there, as if God had a head or a foot. It is to say that God is fully present everywhere at once.  You and I are limited creatures. We have boundaries. If I am here, then I cannot be over there at the same time. God is omnipresent.

We may also speak of the infinity of God in regard to his power. His power is also unlimited. It is not true to say that there is nothing that God cannot do. He cannot sin, for example. He cannot not punish iniquity. He cannot do anything that is contrary to his nature. When we speak of God’s infinity in regard to his power we may say that he is omnipotent. He is all powerful. Nothing in all of creation stands outside his sovereign control. Nothing constrains him. There is no one or nothing that can thwart his power. This certainly cannot be said of you and me.

I suppose we may also speak of God’s infinity in regard to his knowledge. He knows all things. He is omniscient. God has never learned a thing. He has never grown in knowledge, for he has always known all things. He knows the beginning and the end and everything in between

God is Unchanging

The sixth thing to say about God as he is in his essence is that he is unchanging. He does not grow. He does not learn. He does not transform or evolve. He is not impacted or moved by his creatures. He does not repent. He is not given to passions as we are. He is unchanging, the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Listen to James: “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:16–17, ESV)

Listen to how the Psalmist speaks of God, saying, “Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end.” (Psalm 102:25–27, ESV)

Listen to God’s word of comfort to us through Malachi the prophet:“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6, ESV)

And listen to 1 Samuel 15:29: “And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.” (1 Samuel 15:29, ESV)

For God to change would require one of two things: Either he was something less than the perfection of God before, and now he has grown; or through he was once the perfection of God, now he has fallen from that place.

Brothers and sisters, God does not change as you and I change. And this should be a great comfort to us. He is faithful. He is trustworthy and true.

God is Simple

The last thing to be said about God (at least as far as this sermon is concerned) is that he is simple.  You may be tempted to laugh at this last statement, thinking to yourself, this seems far from simple. But that is not what is meant by the simplicity of God. He is not simple in the sense of being easy to understand. No, he is simple in his essential nature.

You and I are composite creatures. We are made up of a body and a spirit. We possess a mind, a will, and affections. We possess certain attributes or qualities which, when combined together, make us who we are – a little of this, and a little of that.

God is God. Everything that is in God, is God. He is a most pure spirit, as has already been said. He is not a composite being consisting of body and soul. When we speak of the attributes of God we should be careful not to confuse the way that God possess attributes with the way that we possess them. You and I might be known for being somewhat loving, somewhat merciful, and rather just. But God is love – pure love. God is holy – and purely so. What may be called an attribute in us should actually be called a perfection in God.

God, in other words, is not made up of parts. He does not have body parts. He does not have certain aspects to his being which, if considered on their own, are less than God, but when considered together, add up to God. God is God. Everything that is in God is God. He is a simple being.

You and I are far from simple. We are complex creatures. We have to process things. We work things over intellectually, emotionally, volitionally. Everything is a process for us. For God, all things are simple, for he is utterly simple in his essence. More on this at another time


I can hear the objections now: Pastor, I am more confused at the end of this sermon than at the beginning. I am having more difficulty picturing God, and imagining his essence now than when you started!

To that I would say, good! Mission accomplished! 

I say that partly in jest. I do not want to you to feel confused. As I said earlier, this sermon was intended to get us pointed in the right direction and to to whet the appetite for further study – there is not enough time her to give adequate attention to theses things. But in a way I am glad if God seems a bit more mysterious to you. Our tendency as creatures is to bring God low. We have this impulse to make God in our image – to bring him low – to press him into our mold, so that we might handle him, or conquer him, if you will. A god like this is more comfortable to us – less threatening.

But this is wrong, brothers and sisters. We ought not to bring God low and make him in our image. No, we ought to think of him as he is, and as he has revealed himself to us in his word. The solution to having a God that we can relate to – the solution to having a God that we can be comfortable with (approaching him as Father), is not to reimagine God as he is in his essence, but to understand all the more the significance of the incarnation.

It is Christ who has revealed the Father to us. It is Christ who has made a way for us. It is Christ who has  atoned for our sins so that we might come before God Almighty and cry out to him, saying, Abba Father.

Let God be God. Do not bring him low. But let Christ be Christ, seeing that he is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through him.

Posted in Sermons, God, Joe Anady, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Sermon: Selected Texts: The Nature of God

"Him we proclaim,
warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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