greatness

We might be like God in some ways. After all, God made us in his image (Genesis 1:26-27).

But God is most certainly not like us. God is more than us. He is greater than us. God transcends us.

The meaning of transcendence is that God is not merely a quality of nature or of humanity; he is not simply the highest human being. He is not limited to our ability to understand him. His holiness and goodness go far beyond, infinitely beyond ours, and this is true of his knowledge and power as well.

Millard Erickson, Introducing Christian Doctrine, 81.

God is other.

It is the supremacy of God’s otherness, holiness, greatness, glory that should drive us to humility and worship.

God is not the “man upstairs,” or the “eye in the sky.” That God transcends us points to God as Creator, Lord, and Sovereign.

Scripture affirms the idea of transcendence.

God is not man, that he should lie,
    or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
    Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

Numbers 23:19

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Isaiah 6:1-5

“As I looked, thrones were placed,
    and the Ancient of Days took his seat;
his clothing was white as snow,
    and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames;
    its wheels were burning fire.
A stream of fire issued
    and came out from before him;
a thousand thousands served him,
    and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;
the court sat in judgment,
    and the books were opened.

Daniel 7:9-10

These passages are just a sampling of the biblical affirmation of God’s transcendence. God is above and beyond us in every way imaginable.

The fact of God’s transcendence should humble us. If you’ve been reading these word of the week posts for any length of time, you may have noticed a theme. Theology that gives us an accurate picture of God and of ourselves rightly humbles us.

The fact of God’s transcendence should lead us to worship. God is great, other, glorious. The more we recognize and reflect on the transcendent God of the Bible, the more we will sense the need to worship and adore God in our attitudes and actions.

So, pause a moment (or more) and consider the greatness and glory of the transcendent God of the Bible. Join us next week as we reflect on the complimentary theme of God’s immanence.

Photo by Motoki Tonn on Unsplash

After several weeks of hiatus, I’m back to posting a regular word of the week theology post. Our most recent theme addressed the doctrine of revelation. In these posts we explored terms related to the Word of God and how we can trust it.

The next theme we are going to work through is theology proper, or the doctrine of God. In the spring, I posted on theology as something more than an academic discipline. In the next number of posts, I’m going to work through terms related specifically to the doctrine of God.

Remember, theology is the study of God and God’s relation to the world. The doctrine of revelation (our most recent theme) studies how God makes himself known to us through general and special revelation. The doctrine of Christ (which we started with in January) studies how God revealed himself to us through his Son, Jesus Christ. In theology proper, we are going to reflect on the character, attributes, and glory of God. This will be a daunting task.

No book, article, sermon, or blogpost can exhaust the wonders, glories, and majesty of God. One of the reasons for the hiatus over the last few weeks is my personal hesitancy in how to explore the doctrine of God adequately and accurately in a blogpost format.

As a result, the subsequent posts regarding God, his character, his person, and his attributes will be limited. I will attempt to choose terms that I can explain clearly and accurately in the limits of a blogpost. I will also aim to reflect what I believe to be one of the primary truths of Scripture–God is knowable.

Theological terms and doctrinal studies can become academic or dry. As a bit of a theology nerd, I have been known to bore a congregation (or my family) by diving too far down into theological minutia. But this is not what theology is supposed to be. Theology is supposed to be about God making himself known and accessible to us.

Jesus prayed in John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

The primary purpose of studying the doctrine of God is to know God through Jesus Christ. My hope is that the posts that follow in the weeks to come will help us to know God better.

In his classic book, Knowing God, J. I. Packer observed:

We must say that knowing God involves, first, listening to God’s Word, and receiving it as the Holy Spirit interprets it, in application to oneself; second, noting God’s nature and character, as his Word and works reveal it; third, accepting his invitations and doing what he commands; fourth, recognizing and rejoicing in the love that he has shown in thus approaching you and drawing you into this divine fellowship.

J. I. Packer, Knowing God, 37.

So let us approach these posts in the following ways:

  • We approach the study of God with humility recognizing the greatness, majesty, and grace of God.
  • We approach the study of God with curiosity recognizing that we will never exhaust the truth and truths about God in our finite understanding.
  • We approach the study of God with fear (awe and reverential respect) recognizing that God in his holiness is to be feared.
  • We approach the study of God with faith recognizing that God revealed himself to us through his creation and his Word reflecting God’s desire to make himself known to us.
  • We approach the study of God with gratitude recognizing the privilege of knowing God and being known by God.
  • We approach the study of God with perseverance recognizing that we will never exhaust the knowledge of God in our finitude.
  • We approach the study of God with submission recognizing that what God reveals about himself to us should result in repentance, change, and obedience in our relationship to him.

In next week’s post, we will begin with several of the primary names God uses in Scripture when he reveals himself to us.

Photo by KEEM IBARRA on Unsplash