Quest. 20: What may we know about God from his Word?
Ans: We may know everything we need to know about God to be reconciled to him, properly worship him and live in obedience to his revealed will.
Deut. 6:4–5. 4Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 5And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
Matt. 22:37–39. 37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Jn. 4:23–24. 23But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
See also: Gen. 1:1; Ex. 20:1–17; 1 Sam. 15:22–23; Isa. 57:15; 64:6; Acts 4:12; 16:30–32; Rom. 3:19–26; 5:1–3; 8:7–8; Eph. 2:4–5, 8–10; 1 Tim. 6:15–16; Rev. 4:11.
God is unknowable, except as he has been pleased to reveal himself, and he has revealed himself in both creation [natural revelation] and in his Word [special revelation]. He is our Creator; we are his creatures. He is infinite; we are finite. He is eternal or supra–temporal; we are temporal. He is spirit; we are corporeal. He is omnipresent; we are physically localized. He is immutable; we are mutable. He is omnipotent and omniscient; we are relatively impotent and ignorant. He is infallible; we are fallible. He is absolutely sovereign in every sphere; we are utterly dependent upon him for life and breath and all things (Acts 17:24–25, 28). When we leave the objective, metaphysical realm and enter the moral realm, the contrast remains: God is absolutely holy; we are unholy. He is absolutely righteous; we are unrighteous. He is sinless or impeccable; we are sinful and depraved.
The moral attributes, however, coincide with our fallen, sinful state in the context of his eternal redemptive purpose: God is gracious and demonstrates his grace in redeeming the utterly undeserving. He is merciful and extends his mercy to those who suffer under the ravages of sin. He is righteous and imputes righteousness to us through faith in Jesus Christ. He is love, and believers are the objects of this love. He reveals himself redemptively as our “Heavenly Father,” and we by grace and faith become his “sons” or “children.” (Matt. 6:9; Rom. 8:14–18; Gal. 4:5–7; 1 Jn. 3:1–3). In the reality of redeeming grace, believers, though imperfectly, reflect God’s moral attributes to a given degree (Matt. 5:7; Lk. 6:36; Jn. 13:34–35; 15:12; Rom. 5:21; 8:4; 13:8; Gal. 5:22–23; Col. 3:12–14; 1 Pet. 1:15–16; 1 Jn. 2:29; 3:7, 10). See Question 94.
Natural revelation points us to the greatness, power and majesty of God, but special revelation also points us to his moral attributes in the context of either redemption or judgment. Natural revelation is so great and inclusive that its witness leaves man inexcusable as to the power and Divine nature of God (Rom. 1:18–20). Special revelation satisfies the mind and heart as it reveals the fullness of God in his redemptive purpose and saving work.
God is absolutely holy [absolutely pure and separate from all his creation], and cannot be approached by anyone unholy or sinful. He is also morally self–consistent or absolutely righteous [right and incapable of wrong or inconsistency]. He demands, as is his sovereign right, that human beings, made in his image and likeness, also be holy and righteous (1 Pet. 1:15–16). In the scheme of redemption, God’s love, grace and mercy rise to answer the demands of his moral self–consistency without any contradiction or inconsistency, providing deliverance and reconciliation through the Person and work of the Lord Jesus (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 3:21–26).
Man, created originally righteous, apostatized from God in an empirical attempt to become autonomous from God and his Law–Word (Gen. 3:1–19). In Adam, who was Representative Man [federal head of the human race] man became a sinner by imputation, nature and tendency and by personal transgression (Gen. 5:3; Rom. 3:23; 5:12–19). By this, he became wholly alienated from God and brought himself under Divine condemnation.
The reality and need of redemption ultimately rest in the holy, righteous, moral self–consistency of God. A righteous, just and holy God cannot arbitrarily set aside sin without becoming morally inconsistent or self–contradictory (Rom. 3:21–31). This is why the eternal Son of God entered the human race through the incarnation (Matt. 1:21; Rom. 8:2–3; Phil. 2:5–9; 1 Tim. 3:16). The Lord Jesus Christ was and is God in the flesh, the God–man, the “Second Man,” the “Last Adam,” the Redeemer to save sinners, the Mediator to reconcile God and men (1 Tim. 2:5). In his infinite, eternal, redemptive love, God sent his Son to be the great propitiation [one through whom the absolute righteous demands of God can be satisfied. Through his active obedience he met the demands of the Divine Law and through his passive obedience, he paid its awful penalty], so believing sinners can be reconciled to him (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 3:24–26). Only in this way—through faith in the Lord Jesus––could God be “both just and the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).
Because we are sinners by imputation, as well as by nature and personal transgressions, whatever we think, say or do is inherently tainted with sin. We cannot escape this. What righteousness we inherently have is a self–righteousness (Isa. 64:6). This is why salvation cannot be by works or self–effort. This is why God cannot accept our efforts to please him. If we are to be saved from sin, it must be by grace [unmerited favor—wholly and utterly undeserved—in the place or stead of merited wrath] alone. There can be no mixture of grace and works. Any addition of works [human ability] would destroy the very principle and reality of Divine grace (Rom. 11:5–6). Free grace and free will are utterly opposed to one another.
How are we to be saved from our sin? How are we to be reconciled to God? How can we receive the grace of God? By faith. Faith is belief, trust, commitment, reliance on someone or thing [“faith” is the noun; “believe” is the verb]. Saving faith trusts, believes in and relies on God, his Word, and specifically his Son as both Lord and Savior. Saving faith lays hold of the perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ in total commitment and appropriates it. This is what it means to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” and be saved (Acts 16:31). See Question 89. Have you savingly come to terms with God’s truth?
By Dr. W.R. Downing