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 (Gen 1:27-28), 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 (John 6:65, 12:49-50). The Son is the agent by which this is done, both in creating and sustaining all of Creation (John 1:1-5, Colossians 1:15-20). He was sent by the Father (John 12:49-50) to redeem us to God through His sacrifice on the cross for our sins (Rom 3:19-24, 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 (John 14:26 , Eph 3:20). He is sent into the world by the Father and Son (John 15:26). 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 (2 Cor 7:10, 1 John 2:28-29, John 14:15) with that of
- God’s sovereign election and preservation of those who come to faith (Rom 8:28-30, 1 Thess 2:13, 2 Peter 1:3-15). God chooses and calls those who are saved (Eph 1:3-14), but at the same time holds us accountable to taking the active choice in repenting and trusting in Him (Rom 2:4).
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. Ephesians 2:8-9 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 (1 Cor 3:6-7). 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’ ( 1 John 3:9-10, 1 John 2:4-5, Titus 1:16, Rom 7:4-6, Col 1:21-23).
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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