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The God-Human Relationship
Part Two: Biblical Evidence
By Gary F. Zeolla
Does the Bible portray God as being personal and infinite? Does it teach we are subservient to Him? These assumptions were held in Part One of this article. It will now be shown that the Bible does in fact present God and our relationship to Him in this manner.
The God of the Bible is personal. He is not just some kind of force or "Principle." A study of the first chapter of the book will easily demonstrate this belief. Genesis 1:1 begins, "In the beginning, God created . . " "Created" (Hebrew--bara) means to "shape, fashion, create" (Brown, p. 135). These actions require creative thinking abilities.
In addition, "the root bara denotes the concept of 'initiating something new.'" Further, ". . . the word lends itself well to the concept of creation ex-nihilo" (i.e.. out of nothing--Harris, p. 127). Thus, the creation is not viewed as "emanating" or being a part of God. It is a created entity distinct from Him (Keil, p. 46).
The third verse starts, "Then God said . . . " Thus God speaks. But not just any speech, but a command. "Let there be light . . ." (jussive in Hebrew). Later, God names parts of His creation (verses 8, 10). He periodically beholds and evaluates His word, "And God saw that it was good" (verses 10, 12, 18, 21, 25).
Before making the man and the woman, God engages in self-reflective thought and conversation, "Let Us make man in Our image . . ." (verse 26). From the earliest times, the Church has interpreted this phrase as the Father speaking to the Son (Epistle of Barnabas 5:5, written about 100 AD).
He now commands the man and the woman (verse 28, imperatives in Hebrew). Next, He informs them as to what they shall eat (verse 29). Lastly, God again beholds and evaluates His work, "Then God saw everything He had made, and indeed it was very good" (verse 31).
In summation, God is portrayed as being self-conscious. He thinks, speaks, names, sees, and evaluates. He engages in self- reflective thought and conversation. He commands and informs the man and woman. These are all conscious, personal attributes of which a force of "Principle" are incapable.
Furthermore, this chapter always presents God as acting toward His creation. It is thus an entity distinct from Himself, and not somehow a part of Him. Moreover, God is definitely not simply the sum total of that which He has just created. He is the personal creator of the universe!
God is infinite; He is not localized by space or time. This fact is presented throughout the Scriptures. Solomon, when dedicating the temple prayed, "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heavens of heaven cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built" (I Kings 8:27).
What is most informative about this passage is Solomon had previously stated God would dwell in the temple forever (8:12). However, later in the chapter, he states that heaven is God's dwelling place (8:39). Obviously, Solomon believed God could be in more than one place at a time.
Jeremiah records God as proclaiming, "'Am I a God near at hand.' says the Lord, 'And not a God afar off? Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?' says the Lord; 'DO I NOT FILL HEAVEN AND EARTH?' says the Lord." (Jer 23:23f, emphasis added).
David clearly knew it is impossible to get away from the presence of the Lord, "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there" (Psalm 139:7).
When Jesus was asked which of two places God was to be worshipped from, He responded, "God is Spirit" (John 4:24). The point of the answer was that there is no one correct place to worship. We can worship God from anywhere since He is not confined by a physical body to being only one place at a time (see John 4:20-24; cf. Luke 24:39).
The apostle Paul knew the Athenians of his day believed in finite gods (Acts 17:16). So when he had the opportunity to preach to them, he declared, ". . . He is not far from each one of us" (Acts 17:27).
Finally, God sees all that we do (Heb 4:13). The thought of God's infinitude can be comforting or threatening- -depending on one's relationship to Him (see Psalm 16:11; Eph 4:6; Heb 10:31).
The Bible teaches that God "has life in Himself" (John 5:26). God is self-existent. He is not dependent on anyone or anything else for His being (Acts 17:25). In contrast, we are dependent on God and His provisions for our life and continued existence (I Tim 6:13; Acts 14:14-17). Paul proclaimed, God "alone has immortality" (I Tim 6:16).
Being self-existent, God is eternal. He had no beginning and will have no end. Moses prayed, "Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God" (Psalm 90:2). His eternal existence differs from men and women whose bodies and spirits God created (Gen 2:7; Zech 12:1).
God is unchanging as opposed to us who do change (Num 23:19; Mal 3:6). God is also omniscient. He knows all things past, present, and future. God declares, ". . . the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done" (Isa 46:10). We, however, ". . . do not know what will happen tomorrow" (James 4:13).
God is Almighty (Gen 17:1). He is in control of all world events (Dan 4:35). Thus, whatever He purposes to do will always come to pass (Isa 14:27). But we are limited in power (I Pet 1:24). We are not in control of all that happens around us (Ruth 1). So what we plan to do may just not work out (James 4:13-15, see Psalm 33:10f).
All of the attributes of God discussed so far in this article bring us to some inescapable conclusions. God is the Sovereign and Master of the universe. He is intrinsically superior to us; we are subordinate to Him. Thus the Psalmist declares, "Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him" (Psalm 33:8).
One last distinction between God and humans needs to be discussed; God's righteousness and our sinfulness. "The Lord is righteous" is the recurring them of the Bible (see Ex 9:27; Psalm 11:7; Rev 16:5; etc.). Even "The heavens declare His righteousness . . . " (Psalm 97:6). "And His righteousness endures forever" (Psalm 111:3). Because "God cannot be tempted by evil" (James 1:13).
God's eternal righteousness coupled with His personal and infinite nature provide us with moral absolutes.
Francis Schaeffer explains this connection, " . . . here is the infinite-personal God who has a character from which all evil is excluded, and His Character is the moral absolute of the universe It is not that there is a moral absolute BEHIND God . . . Rather, it is God Himself and His character who is the moral absolute of the universe" (Schaeffer, p. 302, emphasis in original).
There can be nothing "behind" God since He is infinite and the Sovereign of the universe (Isa 43:10).
Schaeffer writes further:
We need to know who He is, and what His character is, because His character is the law of the universe. He has told us what His character is, and this becomes our moral law, our moral standard. It is not arbitrary, for it is fixed in God Himself, in what has always been (Schaeffer, p. 303).
There ARE absolutes. They are fixed in the one true God who has the attributes we have been discussing throughout this newsletter. And God, being personal as we have shown, can speak to us and reveal who He is and what His absolutes are. These revelations have been recorded in the Bible (Ex 3:14; 20:1-17; 34:6; etc.).
God has also impressed this knowledge upon the human conscience. But we suppress it (Rom 1:18-23; 2:12-16). As a result, "We have turned, every one, to his own way" (Isa 53:6). We don't abide by His moral absolutes (Rom 3:9-20). We break His Law (James 2:10). We give into temptation (Gen 3:6; Rom 7:15). We don't even live up to the moral standards we expect of others (Matt 7:1-5; Rom 2:1-3). Thus, we ". . . all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23). And all the world is guilty before Him (see Rom 3:19).
Due to our guilt and sin, we are "by nature children of wrath" (Eph 2:3). We stand condemned, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness . . ." (Rom 1:18). And given our inferior nature to God, there is nothing we can do to appease this wrath--no matter who we are or what we do (see Rev 6:15-17; Gal 2:16; 3:10).
If the story ended here, there'd be nothing left but despair (Eccl 1:2). But it doesn't! Alongside God's wrath is His love (I John 4:8). These two attributes are held in perfect balance with each other (Eph 2:1-7).
We can know God is love because ". . . God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom 5:8). Further, "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (I John 4:10). Note: propitiation means "appeasement, conciliatory offering" (American, p. 993).
Donald Burdick (NT professor at Denver Seminary) explains:
Biblical propitiation, then, is the satisfaction of divine justice resulting in the diversion of divine wrath from the sinner. Furthermore, in the New Testament propitiation is not only demanded by divine justice if sin is to be forgiven, but it is provided by divine love.
. . . God is propitiated concerning sin by the death of Christ. His justice, outraged by the violation of His law, is satisfied by the shedding of Christ's blood and thus He can forgive sins (Burdick, p. 79).
So God's wrath has been diverted and "we are reconciled to God through the death of His Son" (Rom 5:10). But this reconciliation to God is for you only if you personally believe in Jesus Christ:
who believes in the Son has everlasting life;
and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life,
but the wrath of God abides on him"
(John 3: 36).
It DOES matter what you believe. Trust the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins (Matt 26:28). Only He can reconcile you to the Father (John 14:6; I Tim 2:5).
The links below are direct links to where the book can be purchased from Books-A-Million.
All Scripture references from: New King James Version . Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson unless otherwise indicated.
American Heritage Dictionary , Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1985.
Brown, Francis. Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon . Peabody, MS: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979.
Burdick, Donald. The Letters of John the Apostle. Chicago: Moody Press, 1985.
Harris, Laird, Gleason Archer and Bruce Waltke, editors. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament . Vol. I. Chicago: Moody Press, 1980.
James, Fannie and Malinda Cramer. Divine Science: Its Principle and Practice. Denver: Divine Science Federation International, 1957.Keil, C. F. and F. Delitzsch. Commentary on the Old Testament. Vol. I. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1986.
Lewis, C. S. Miracles . New York: Collier Books, 1960.
Ludlow, Daniel ed. Latter-Day Prophets Speak. USA: Bookcraft, 1988.
MacLaine, Shirley. Out on a Limb. New York: Bantam Books, 1983.
Magnani, Duane. The Heavenly Weatherman. Clayton, CA: Witness Inc., 1987.
Prabhupada, Swami. Bhagavad-Gita as it is. New York: The Bhakitivedant A Book Trust, 1972.
Schaeffer, Francis. Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer . Vol. I. A Christian View of Philosophy and Culture. Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1982.
Smith, Joseph. The Book of Abraham, in The Pearl of Great Price. Salt Lake City: LDS, 1986.
You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, Brooklyn: Watchtower, 1982.
Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion
Clark, Gordon. The Biblical Doctrine of Man.
Erickson, Millard. Christian Theology .
Ferguson, Sinclair. Heart for God .
Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity . Miracles .
Moore, Peter. Disarming the Secular Gods.
Morey, Robert. Battle of the Gods.
Packer, J. I. Knowing God .
Schaeffer, Francis A. The Francis A. Schaeffer Trilogy. . Contains: The God Who is There. Escape from Reason. He is There and He is Not Silent.
Sproul, R. C. Holiness of God. If There is a God, Why are There Atheists?. One Holy Passion.
VanTil, Cornelius. Defense of the Faith .
The God-Human Relationship. Copyright © 1999 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.dtl.org).
The above article originally appeared in Darkness to Light
newsletter in 1991.
It was posted on this Web site in July 1996.
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