The Fundamentals of Our Faith;
What We Believe Sermon Series
“We Believe in God”
At the conclusion of our worship service today I am going to stick around in the sanctuary for about 10-15 minutes to answer any questions that you may have regarding the topic of God and “what we believe” on that subject.
Why have a sermon series on beliefs and doctrine? Because the church is united or divided over what it believes. Unity promotes love among a church, and it is much easier to understand the mission and direction of the church when there is unity behind beliefs.
There are some beliefs that we should part ways over, and there are some doctrines that while important are not worth leaving fellowship over. Not all doctrine is the same and of the same importance, so where do we draw the line on when to leave a denomination, or a church, or is this the right church for me to join? Your first question should not be about a children’s or student ministry, but “what does this church hold to as being doctrine?”
Gavin Ortland in his book, Finding the Right Hills to Die On gives four major categories that I think will be helpful for us as we negotiate through the various Christian beliefs over the next few weeks:
- First-rank doctrines are essential to the gospel itself. An example would be, the Trinity.
- Second-rank doctrines are urgent for the health and practice of the church such that they frequently cause Christians to separate at the level of local church, denomination, and/or ministry. An example would be mode of baptism.
- Third-rank doctrines are important to Christian theology, but not enough to justify separation or division among Christians. An example would be the millennium.
- Fourth-rank doctrines are unimportant to our gospel witness and ministry collaboration. An example would be, how many angels are there?
So we, are going to cover doctrines that are mainly at the first-rank level, and some second rank-level.
Our topic today is God, next week is Jesus. The only way to accurately understand anything about God is for Him to reveal Himself to us. God has revealed Himself to us in two ways; His Word and in Nature (which includes our conscience). Romans 1:20 “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”
How Do We Know God Exists?
First, the Bible assumes God’s existence and therefore does not seek to prove His existence. Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning, God created . . .” But, we can briefly cover some arguments”
Universal Religion. Everywhere you go on the planet, throughout human history, mankind has worshiped something and created a belief system. There is a instinctive recognition that something is bigger than they are. However, for mankind to get the religion right, God has to step in and reveal some things about Himself.
Cosmological Argument. Hebrews 3:4 “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.” Everything has an origin, a beginning, so does the universe and all of creation. There must be an original source.
Teleological Argument. “order and useful arrangement in a system imply intelligence and purpose in the organizing cause.” Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above1 proclaims his handiwork.” If one finds a gold pocket watch in the forest, they assume that there is a maker of the watch.
What Is God Like?
We are going to break down the characteristics of God into two categories: those which He shares with humanity, and those which He does not share with humanity.
Ways We Are Like God
God is Holy – the word holy means set apart from sin to righteousness. It is God’s righteous nature that defines sin. God does not sin, therefore anything like God is not sin. He does not live up to a standard, He is the standard of right and wrong, sin and righteousness.
We have the ability to be like God in the way in which we choose to live our lives, but that holy living is only possible through our relationship with Christ. 1 Peter 1:16 “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
God is Loving – God’s love is displayed in all His works from the beginning of the Old Testament to the end of the New Testament. The New Testament uses three different words for love. One is a brotherly love, one is a romantic love, and the word for love used to describe God is agape.
An agape love, “is the exercise of one’s will for the good of another. God has committed his will for the good of humanity.” 1 John 4:8 “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” God is love was ultimately expressed and personified in the life of Jesus, and especially in his three year ministry.
God is Just – Justice is when we apply consequences to a person’s actions according to a fixed standard, without regard to favoritism, or any other intervening thing. Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Since all have sinned the wages of sin is death, it is justice for people to be judged because they have sinned.
God is Merciful – this is a characteristic of God that guides Him to provide a way of escape when we deserve judgement. We deserve to die, but God sent Jesus to earth to die for us. God’s justice and His mercy combine to provide a way to be saved from the consequences of our sin.
Titus 3:5-7 “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
God is Good – God’s goodness means that, in the end, all will be well, even though some things between now and then may be difficult. Deuteronomy 8:16 “who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end.” When we understand God infinitely more intelligent and powerful than us – it would be terrifying if He were evil, or corrupt. Imagine spending eternity with God if he were not good.
God is Spirit – God has revealed Himself to humanity as being a person, with personality, emotions, etc. John 4:24 “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” Even though we cannot see God the Father, the part of us that is spirit can communicate with His spirit.
Ways We Are Not Like God
God is Eternal – Timeless, God never had a beginning, and will never have end. He has always existed. Psalm 90:2 “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
God is Immutable – God is unchanging; He has and will never change. He can never be wiser, more holy, more just, more merciful, more truthful – not less. His paths and purposes do not change. James wrote He is, “the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17).
Malachi 3:6 “For I the LORD do not change;” Often times it feels like God may be for us in a moment, and then against us in another. But remember, God does not change, and it is often we who have changed in our relationship with God.
In the book of Jonah, The Bible speaks of God “changing His mind.” God was aware of the city’s sin and sent a prophet to tell the city of Ninevah that they needed to turn from their sins or they were going to be destroyed. God saw how they repented, and “He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened (Jonah 3:10). It was not God who changed, the people repented.
Some people wrongly suggest that the God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath and anger, while the New Testament portrays God in Christ as love and gentleness. The God of the OT repeatedly had mercy on the Israelites and saved them from their own perversions.
This same God in Jesus wept over Jerusalem because the people killed the prophets and would not turn to the Lord (Matt. 23:37). Jesus taught often about heaven, hell, and eternal judgement – God’s justice and love are knit together throughout the entire Bible.
God is Transcendent yet Immanent – God is above and separate from the rest of creation. He is self-existing, he needs nothing. He has life in himself, and is the source of all life. He created gravity, but it does not affect Him – he is above creation and it’s laws. While He does not choose to alter then very often, He can if He desires (i.e. miracles).
While God is separate from creation, He is still close to it. We see again and again in the Bible where God desires to have a relationship with humanity. Isa. 57:15 “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
But he is not so close to creation, that He is in it (pantheism) or indistinguishable from the universe. He has also revealed Himself to us as a loving Father, and we are His precious children. Therefore, communication is also possible, and we are told that God desires to talk with His children.
Each of the three characteristics begins with the word “omni,” meaning unlimited.
God is Omnipresent – He is everywhere at the same time. There is no where a person can go to escape Him, but also, no matter where you go, he is there with you. Psalm 139:7-10 “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”
God is Omniscient – God knows everything, both actual and possible.
God is Omnipotent – all powerful. God can do anything He chooses to do. Job 42:2 “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” The omnipotence of God has self-imposed intrinsic limitations. He is limited by His moral character. So, while nothing is impossible with God, Hebrews 6:18 tells us that “it is impossible for God to lie.”
His omnipotence applies to inherent possibilities, not inherent impossibilities. If someone were to ask, “Is it possible for God to make anything too heavy for Himself to lift? If not, how can we say He is omnipotent?”
From God’s omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience – He created what we see and understand as all that exists. Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” We are not told how He did it, only that the creation that we experience is from Him.
Theologians use the term ex nihilo, based on two words; ex, out of, and nihilo, nothing – God created all that exists from nothing. It did not exist, and then it existed as a result of God desiring it to be. From creation itself, we can see that as a Creator, God has immense intelligence, and unimaginable power. We cannot even grasp the size of the cosmos, let alone the specifics of how it came to be, or fully understand how it works.
We can also see, based on creation, that God is capable of holding it all together. From the smallest particle, to whole galaxies we are dependent on His grace and benevolence.
God is Triune – The word trinity does not appear in the Bible, but when we look at the Bible in its entirety this fact is inescapable. At Jesus’ baptism we see all three members of the trinity, Mark 1:10 “And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
The Son of God appearing as the Savior of the world, the Father sends His Son, and the Holy Spirit guiding people to respond to Jesus as the Savior – all three present and active. God is one in his essential being, but his divine essence exists in three persons.
Why should we hold to and defend a proper doctrine of God (the first and second rank doctrines?) Because without them the gospel is either vulnerable or incomplete. Without a sound and accurate doctrine, we don’t understand our need for salvation. nor do we have a means of salvation.
Our theology and biblical doctrine also act as a filter that catches false teachings, anti-biblical worldviews, so if he are not rooted in these things, Ephesians 4:14 “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” Without a solid understanding of what the Bible teaches, we are exposed to every false teaching that the world throws at us.
 Gavin Ortlund, Finding the Right Hills to Die On, The Case for Theological Triage (Wheaton, Illinois; Crossway Publishing, 2020) 19.
 Henry Clarence Thiessen, Lectures In Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979) 27.
 Max Anders, New Christian’s Handbook, Everything New Believers Need to Know (Nashville, Tennessee; Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999) 1.
 Paul E. Little, Know What You Believe, A Practical Discussion of the Fundamentals of the Christian Faith (Colorado Springs, Colorado; Cook Comminications, 1999) 25.