Survey Studies in Reformed Theology
Genevan Institute for Reformed Studies
by Bob Burridge ©1996, 2006, 2010, 2016
The Revealed Nature of God
To worship and live for God’s glory, we need to know what God is. The Bible is our only authoritative source of information about God. We are limited to the study of his self-revelation as preserved in the inspired Scriptures.
God tells us he is one God. Deuteronomy 6:4 is often called the Creed of Israel. it says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” It’s still often sung or recited in Jewish Synagogue services. The word “LORD” represents the Covenant Name of God, often translated into English as “Jehovah”. In Hebrew it’s just 4 consonants which we call the “Tetragrammaton”. Research has restored the original pronunciation as best as we can, based on the modern tools of orthoepy. It would probably have been originally pronounced “Yah-VEH” (יהוה). European Jews came to pronounce it other ways because of the influence of the Germanic languages.
To avoid the careless use of that special name the Jews, Jesus, and the other New Testament writers said the word for “lord” in either Hebrew or Greek. The Hebrew word is “Adonai”. The Greek word for Lord is “κυριος”. The Holy Spirit led the New Testament writers to continue that respectful substitute. Bible Translators usually use the word LORD in all upper case characters when it represents the Tetragrammaton. This Creed of Israel is often referred to as the “shma'” which is the first word in the original Hebrew text. שׁמע ישׂראל יהוה אלהינו יהוה אחד׃ (“Shma Yisrael, ADONAI Elohaenu, ADONAI Akhud.”)
The unity of God in substance, purpose, power, and glory demands that he is indivisible. To segment God into parts leaves some of him less than all he is.
We often say that God is “simple”. Not that he is easy to understand, but that he is not made up of parts.
The revealed nature of God leaves no room for multiple beings of separate essences each laying claim to being the one absolute, ultimate God, the source of everything else. The Trinity is not a committee of three. There are no other deities.
Basically, there is only one Creator of all things and only, one Absolute standard of all that is right and true. The fact of one Creator is clearly stated in Scripture.
John 1:3, “all things came into being through him; and apart from him nothing came into being that has come into being.”
Colossians 1:16, “In him all things were created…”
Ephesians 3:9, speaks of the “… God, who created all things…”
Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 4: defines God as to his nature and attributes, “God is a spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.”
God is the origin of, not a part of, the material universe. He preceded the physical eternally. His essence must be that which is non-physical, or what we understand as “spirit.”
The attributes summarized in Westminster Shorter Catechism question 4 fall into two categories. Some attributes are “incommunicable.” They’re not shared with any creature. They are unique to the Creator and not “communicated” to the things he made. These are his infinitude, eternality, and immutability. He is “infinite, eternal and unchangeable.”
The remaining attributes are “communicable.” The Creator has built them into humans making them in his image. We share them with God, but in him they are infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. In us they are finite, temporal, and changeable. They are perfections in God, they are in us in imperfect form. The communicable attributes are: “being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.”
To each of the communicable attributes we attach the three incommunicable qualities. For example, The being of God is infinite, eternal and unchangeable. This means that he has the quality of “immensity.” He, in his entirety, fills all space all the time. His being has had no beginning and will have no end. His being is never modified in any way. Similarly the three incommunicable qualities extend to the other communicable attributes.
We possess these qualities imperfectly, and as projections into the created realm. We should not imagine them to be the same qualitatively as those which they represent in the Creator. They are in us like the reflections in a mirror of some real-world object. While they are not the same as the original, they bear a correspondence with it. (Isomorphism)
In this case the correspondence fulfills the purpose of the Creator in making us in his image. They make his revelation understandable to the degree God desired it.
God created all things for his own purposes. Therefore, since he is before all things, and he remains the same before and after creation, he depends upon nothing outside of himself.
Since he can’t depend on anything outside of himself, our desires and decisions can’t be the cause of what he does with us.
We often speak of God’s Aseity. That means the he is self-existent. Since God exists forever, it’s meaningless to speak of a “cause” that produced God. In that sense, to say that God is the “cause” of himself defies the meaning of the word “cause”. God simply exists in and of himself. He always has and always will.
Revelation 4:11″Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created.”
Exodus 3:14 “And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM'; and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.”‘”
Acts 17:25 “…as if he needed anything, since he himself gives to all life and breath and all things:”
One of the most pervasive teachings of Scripture is the absolute sovereignty of God. As Creator and Upholder of all that is, he is Lord over all.
Psalm 135:6 “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas, and in all deeps.”
God’s Sovereignty is not a “Calvinistic” doctrine. It is fundamental to all truly Christian systems. If it’s rejected, the nature of the God of Scripture is rejected as well. Many who inconsistently try to redefine God’s sovereignty introduce ideas which also deny his independence or immutability.
We are finite and qualitatively less than God in knowledge and understanding. We can never know him in the same way that he knows himself. While we can know what he tells us about himself to the degree that we are designed to know him, we can never know him comprehensively.
Divine knowledge is commented upon in Psalm 139:6. It is “too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it.”
The greatest good and purpose of all creation is that all things should promote the glory of God.
1 Peter 4:11 “…that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever, Amen”
Colossians 1:16 “…all things have been created through Him and for Him”
The first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man?” It answers, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” This is why Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Questions for Review and Thought
1. Why must we accept the idea that God is but one being?
2. What are the incommunicable attributes of God?
3. Why are these attributes considered incommunicable.
4. What are the communicable attributes of God?
5. In what way do humans possess the communicable attributes?
6. Why do we understand God to be the only independent being?
7. If God is incomprehensible, why can we not say he is unknowable?
8. How does the denial of God’s absolute sovereignty also endanger our acceptance of the incommunicable attributes of God?
(Bible quotations are from the New American Standard Bible (1988 edition) unless otherwise noted.)