Saturday, June 9, 2012

Systematic Theology--Chapter 13

The Character of God: "Communicable" Attributes (Part 2)
How is God like us in attributes of will and in attributes that summarize his excellence?

D. Attributes of Purpose
   14. Will--God's will is that attribute of God whereby he approves and determines to bring about every action necessary for the existence and activity of himself and all creation.
      a. God's Will in General

  • Paul refers to God as the one "who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will" (Eph. 1:11)
    • The phrase here translated "all things" (ta panta) is used frequently by Paul to refer to everything that exists or everything in creation.
    • The word translated "accomplishes" (energeo, "works, works out, brings about, produces") is a present participle which suggests continual activity.
  • All things were created by God's will: "For you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created" (Rev. 4:11).
  • Acts 4:27-28 suggests that all of the events connected with the death of Christ were according to God's will: "truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with all the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place."
  • Sometimes it is God's will that Christians suffer.
    • 1 Peter 3:17--For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
    • 1 Peter 4:19--So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
  • James encourages us to see all the events of our lives as subject to God's will: Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)
      b.Distinctions in Aspects of God's Will
         (1) Necessary Will and Free Will

    • Some distinctions may help us understand various aspects of God's will. Just as we can will or choose something eagerly or reluctantly, happily or with regret, secretly or publicly, so also God in the infinite greatness of his personality is able to will different things in different ways.
    • One helpful distinction applied to aspects of God's will is the distinction between God's necessary will and God's free will.
      • God's necessary will includes everything that he must will according to his own nature.
        • God eternally wills to be who he is and what he is. (See Ex. 3:14)
        • God cannot choose to be different than he is or cease to exist.
      • God's free will includes all things that God decided to will but had no necessity to will according to his nature.
        • God's decision to create the universe, and all the decisions relating to the details of that creation
        • God's acts of redemption
        • To call creation and/or redemption necessary would be to say that without us God cannot be truly God. God's decisions to create and to redeem were totally free decisions.
         (2) Secret Will and Revealed Will

    • Deuteronomy 29:29--The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.
      • Those things that God has revealed are given for the purpose of obeying God's will.
      • With regard to the secret matters of his will, we are simply to trust him.
    • Genesis 50:20--You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
      • Here God's revealed will to Joseph's brothers was that they should love him and not steal from him or sell him into slavery or make plans to murder him.
      • But God's secret will was that in the disobedience of Joseph's brothers a greater good would be done when Joseph gained authority over the land of Egypt and was able to save his family.
      15. Freedom--God's freedom is that attribute of God whereby he does whatever he pleases.

  • Nothing in all creation can hinder God from doing his will. He is under no authority of external restraint.
  • Psalm 115:3--Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.
  • Daniel 4:35--All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”
      16. Omnipotence (Power, Sovereignty)--God's omnipotence means that God is able to do all his holy will.

  • Whereas God's freedom referred to the fact that there are no external constraints on God's decisions, God's omnipotence has reference to his own power to do what he decides to do.
  • Psalm 24:8--Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.
  • Jeremiah 32:17--“Ah, Sovereign Lordyou have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.
  • Ephesians 3:20--Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us
  • Luke 1:37--For no word from God will ever fail.
  • Matthew 19:26--Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
  • These passages indicate that God's power is infinite, and that he is therefore not limited in any way, including being limited to doing only what he actually has done.
  • However, God cannot or will not do anything that would deny his own character. This is why the definition of omnipotence is stated in terms of God's ability to do "all his holy will." It is not absolutely everything that God is able to do, but everything that is consistent with his character. For example:
    • He cannot lie (See Titus 1:2 and Hebrews 6:18)
    • He cannot deny himself (2 Timothy 2:13)
    • He cannot sin, cease to exist, cease to be God, or act in a way inconsistent with any of his attributes.
  • Although God's power is infinite, his use of that power is qualified by his other attributes.
E. "Summary" Attributes
   17. Perfection--God's perfection means that God completely possesses all excellent qualities and lacks no part of any qualities that would be desirable for him.

  • Matthew 5:48--Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
  • Psalm 18:30--As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless;   he shields all who take refuge in him.
   18. Blessedness--God's blessedness means that God delights fully in himself and in all that reflects his character.

  • This definition indicates that God is perfectly happy, that he has fullness of joy in himself, and that he takes pleasure in everything in creation that mirrors his own excellence.
  • We imitate God's blessedness when we find delight and happiness in all that is pleasing to God.
  • We find our greatest blessedness, our greatest happiness, in delighting in the source of all good qualities, God himself.
   19. Beauty--God's beauty is that attribute of God whereby he is the sum of all desirable qualities.

  • Psalm 27:4--One thing I ask from the Lordthis only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.
  • Psalm 73:25--Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
  • Because of his overwhelming beauty, the greatest blessing of the heavenly city shall be this: "They shall see his face" (Rev. 22:4).
  • We reflect God's beauty in our own lives when we exhibit conduct that is pleasing to him.
    • Titus 2:10--and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.
    • The beauty of our lives is so important to Christ that his purpose now is to sanctify the entire church "that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:27).
    • When we reflect God's character, he delights in us and finds us beautiful in his sight.
  • We also delight in God's excellence as we see it manifested in the lives of our brothers and sisters in the Lord. We are ultimately delighting in God himself as we see his character evidenced in the lives of his people.
   20. Glory--God's glory is the created brightness that surrounds God's revelation of himself.

  • This is not really an attribute in the same sense as the other attributes since we are speaking not of God's own character but of created light or briliance that surrounds God as he manifests himself in his creation.
  • Nevertheless, God's glory is something that belongs to him alone and is the appropriate outward expression of his own excellence.
  • Psalm 24:10--Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty — he is the King of glory.
  • Luke 2:9--An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
  • Revelation 21:23--The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light,and the Lamb is its lamp.
  • Quite amazingly, God made us to reflect his glory. Paul tells us that even now in our Christian lives we all are being "changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another" (2 Cor. 3:18).

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