MYSTERY: GOD IS SURPASSINGLY GREAT

Hey everyone! How are you? I hope all is well!

I missed the last two days not blogging but I will make it up today by posting both of them as well as an update on my reading the Bible cover to cover in 90 days! Thanks!

Here we are continuing our discussion on J.I. Packer’s Concise Theology.

Understanding basic theological truths is important in the life of the believer. Again I reiterate what J.I Packer says,

theology is for doxology and devotion—that is, the praise of God and the practice of godliness. “

MYSTERY

GOD IS SURPASSINGLY GREAT

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.

1 CHRONICLES 29:11

God is great, says Scripture (Deut. 7:21; Neh. 4:14; Pss. 48:1; 86:10; 95:3; 145:3; Dan. 9:4): greater than we can grasp. Theology states this by describing him as incomprehensible—not in the sense that logic is somehow different for him from what it is for us, so that we cannot follow the workings of his mind at all, but in the sense that we can never understand him fully, just because he is infinite and we are finite. Scripture pictures God as dwelling not only in thick and impenetrable darkness but also in unapproachable light (Ps. 97:2; 1 Tim. 6:16), and both images express the same thought: our Creator is above us, and it is beyond our power to take his measure in any way.

This is sometimes expressed by speaking of the mystery of God, using that word not in the biblical sense of a secret that God has now revealed (Dan. 2:29-30; Eph. 3:2-6) but in the more recently developed sense of a reality that we lack the capacity to understand properly, no matter how much is said about it. God tells us in the Bible that creation, providential government, the Trinity, the Incarnation, the regenerating work of the Spirit, union with Christ in his death and resurrection, and the inspiration of Scripture—to go no further—are facts, and we take his word for it that they are; but we believe that they are without knowing how they can be.

As creatures, we are unable fully to comprehend either the being or the actions of the Creator.

As it would be wrong, however, to suppose ourselves to know everything about God (and so in effect to imprison him in the box of our own limited notion of him), so it would be wrong to doubt whether our concept constitutes real knowledge of him. Part of the significance of our creation in God’s image is that we are able both to know about him and to know him relationally in a true if limited sense of “know”; and what God tells us in Scripture about himself is true as far as it goes.

Calvin spoke of God as having condescended to our weakness and accommodated himself to our capacity, both in the inspiring of the Scriptures and in the incarnating of the Son, so that he might give us genuine understanding of himself. The form and substance of a parent’s baby talk bears no comparison with the full contents of that parent’s mind, which he or she could express in full if talking to another adult; but the child receives from the baby talk factual information, real if limited, about the parent, and responsive love and trust grow accordingly. That is the analogy here.

Now we see why our Creator presents himself to us anthropomorphically, as having a face (Exod. 33:11), a hand (1 Sam. 5:11), an arm (Isa. 53:1), ears (Neh. 1:6), eyes (Job 28:10), and feet (Nah. 1:3), and as sitting on a throne (1 Kings 22:19), flying on the wind (Ps. 18:10), and fighting in battle (2 Chron. 32:8; Isa. 63:1-6). These are not descriptions of what God is in himself but of what he is to us: namely, the transcendent Lord who relates to his people as Father and friend, and acts as their ally. God sets himself before us in this way to draw us out in worship, love, and trust, even though conceptually we are always like the young children who hear their parents’ baby talk and know the talker only in part (1 Cor. 13:12).

We should never forget that in any case theology is for doxology: the truest expression of trust in a great God will always be worship, and it will always be proper worship to praise God for being far greater than we can know.

Source: Packer, J. I. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993.

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Always, for God’s glory and our joy in Him!

Kevin Nunez

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