There is a question which gets much attention today—as it has gotten much attention down through the ages—but which is actually a very foolish question. This question is: Does God exist? Men pose this question, apparently in all seriousness, and then debate it vigorously. Some list many arguments against the existence of God and solemnly conclude that there is no God. Others find reasons in creation, in history, in the opinions of mankind, and in their own personal experiences for the existence of a god and decide that a god does exist—a “Supreme Being,” a “Supreme Intelligence,” or a “Prime Mover.”
But the question itself is a foolish one! A man might as well ask the question, “Do I exist?,” or, “Does the worldexist?” (The fact that philosophers have asked these questions, seriously, does not make them any less silly.) The fact of God’s existence is no question. The Bible does not even concern itself with such a question. It never bothers to argue, much less prove God’s existence. The Bible simply begins with the Almighty activity of the living God. The very first words of the Bible, Genesis 1:1, are: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”
There is no need for the Bible to begin by debating the proposition, “God exists,” because every human being knows that God exists. He knows this as surely as he knows that he exists and that the world exists. The reason why he knows that God exists is that God Himself reveals His existence to every man. God makes this known through the creation. The Bible teaches this in Romans 1:19, 20. Verse 18 speaks of God’s wrath on men “who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” Verses 19, 20 go on to say: “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”
These verses teach that God shows to every man certain things about Himself: His power, His Godhead, His existence. There is a clear revelation of the God Who made the world in the world that He made. Every creature, including man himself, shows God’s existence. The result is that every man knows God. This is what verse 21 says: “when they knew God, they glorified him not as God.” No man is saved by this knowledge, nor is it possible to be saved by it. For there is no Christ and no grace in it. Men hold the truth under in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18) and change the truth of God into a lie (Romans 1:25). Indeed, God’s purpose in showing the truth of Himself to them is that they be without excuse (Romans 1:20). But there is no atheist (a person who believes that there is no God) and no agnostic (a person who believes that it is uncertain whether God exists or not); everyone knows God. Only the fool denies God; “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God” (Psalm 53:1). His trouble is not intellectual (in his head) but spiritual (in his heart—where he hates the God Whom he knows).
The Bible is concerned with a different question, not the question: “Is there a God?”; but the question: “Who is this living God? What is He like?”
Strangely, though, even people who claim to be Christians have a tendency today to be indifferent to this question. For this question concerns doctrine, and many people profess to have no interest in doctrine, least of all in the doctrine of God. They demand that the Church limit her teaching to the subject of man’s behavior, particularly to our duty to love our neighbor. “Tell us how to live,” they say to the preacher, “and do not bore us with doctrine.” It is a plague in the churches today, a sickness unto death, that there is little doctrine, little teaching of doctrine in the preaching and little knowledge of doctrine by the people. Christianity without doctrine is simply not Christianity. “Take heed . . . unto the doctrine” were Paul’s parting words to the young minister, Timothy. The doctrine of God is of primary importance. The main purpose of the Bible is to make known the truth of God. The Bible is not a handbook of solutions to all of men’s problems. It is not even, first of all, the book that sets forth the way of salvation for men. First of all, the Bible reveals God. It does this in its witness to Jesus Christ. For Jesus is the brightness of God’s glory and the express image of God’s person (Hebrews 1:3). And the work that Jesus came to do is the. work of revealing God to men, as we read in Matthew 11:27: “neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.”
The doctrine of God is important for our salvation. When Jesus reveals the Father to a person, He saves that person. The true knowledge of God is salvation.John 17:3 says: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.”
We must know God! We must know Who God is and what He is like! The Reformed Church has always been characterized by its emphasis upon God and the doctrine of God. The faith of the Reformed Church is God-centered. The motto that expresses the heart of our faith is this: To God alone be the glory! One of the creeds of the Reformed faith is the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Its opening question is: “What is the chief end of man?” The answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
This all-important knowledge of God is to be found only in Holy Scripture. Even though God reveals His power and divinity in creation, He makes Himself more clearly and fully known to us by His holy and divine Word. The knowledge of God derived from the Bible is a saving knowledge, when the Holy Spirit reveals it in our hearts; “whatsoever man ought to believe, unto salvation, is sufficiently taught therein” (Belgic Confession, Article VII).
What does the Bible teach about God?
God is personal. He is not a mere force or power or idea, but He is a Person Who says, “I.” He has a mind and a will. He knows; He plans; He sees and hears and speaks and works. He looks down from heaven and beholds the children of men. He judges every man, not only according to our outward deeds but also according to our secret thoughts and desires. Because He is personal, He can be prayed to by those who fear Him; He, hears and answers prayers.
God’s Being is spiritual. So, Jesus describes God inJohn 4:24: “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” God does not have a body; He is invisible. For this reason, it is wrong to make images of God or to attempt to worship Him by means of images. God forbids this in the second commandment of His law. We must worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Certain perfections characterize God’s Being. These are important for our right knowledge of God. God is eternal. Unlike us and our world, God has no beginning and no end. He is not subject to time. Psalm 90:2 speaks of God’s eternity: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth. and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art. God.”
God is almighty. He has all authority; i.e., the right to rule His creatures. He has all power, i.e., the actual strength to rule as He pleases. He exercises this infinite power also. He displayed His power when He created this vast universe by His mighty Word. He continues to display this power in upholding and governing this creation. For every creature depends, moment by moment, upon God. We all depend upon Him for our very existence. Acts 17:28 teaches this: “For in Him (God) we live, and move, and have our being.” What wickedness, what folly, therefore, for a man to ignore or to blaspheme God! And what ingratitude! The very breath he draws with which to curse God, he has from God.
God, however, depends upon no one and upon nothing. He is independent. He has His Being of Himself; His is all might. Therefore, He freely makes His own plan, and He sovereignly performs all His good-pleasure in heaven and on earth. God makes this known in His great Name, Jehovah (“I Am That I Am”): “That men may know that thou, whose name alone is Jehovah, art the most high over all the earth.” (Psalm 83:18).
God is the Holy One (Isaiah 40:25). In His holiness, He is high and lifted up, far beyond all creatures, in awesome majesty (Isaiah 6:1-4). He is free from every taint of sin and is the awful enemy of sin. He hates sin, and He will certainly consume every sinner among men whose sins are not forgiven by the death of Jesus Christ and whose sins are not washed away by the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit.
Closely related to His holiness is God’s righteousness, or justice. All of God’s thoughts, plans, words, and works conform to the perfect goodness of His Being. God governs the world and deals with every man, righteously. This justice of God, challenged so often and understood so little, will be displayed for all to see at the Final Judgment. As a righteous God, God requires that men live in a way that harmonizes with God’s righteousness. God makes this demand and sets forth this righteous way of life in His law, the Ten Commandments. He also demands that every sin committed against His righteous law be punished with a punishment that fits the seriousness of sin, namely, temporal, and eternal death: “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). There may be no salvation for a man, no life, unless all of his sins are paid for in full.
Men may not like such a God. Indeed, there is no one of us who does love this true God by nature. We prefer a god who is unholy as we are and who does not mind our sins. We like a god who winks at our sins and who will welcome us to heaven, or at least not send us to hell, after a long life of wickedness which is neither repented of nor forgiven. But our likes and dislikes change nothing. This is Who God is and what He is like.
Nor do His love, His grace, and His mercy abolish His holiness and righteousness. These are also perfections of God, marvelous perfections, perfections that make Him adorable, perfections that cause His people to love Him, to serve Him with all their life, to preach Him and to confess Him in the face of all opposition. In Jesus Christ, God has revealed Himself to be a God of love, of grace, and of mercy. He takes a sinful people to heaven, having cleansed them from all their sin; He forgives our sins; He blesses and does good to those who have no worth. But this does not involve the sacrifice of His holiness and righteousness, for He saves His people on the basis of Jesus’ death on the cross, where all His hatred for sin was fully revealed and where all His righteousness was satisfied. We can only know His love and mercy by believing in Jesus Christ crucified for our sins. Apart from the cross of Christ, there is only wrath, condemnation, and death.
If this is Who God is—and it is!—God must be worshipped. “Great is Jehovah, and greatly to be praised” (Psalm 145:3) To refuse to worship God and instead to worship some idol is the first and great sm. God sent out the apostles, and now sends forth the apostolic Word, “that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein” (Acts 14:15). The call of God’s Word to you and to me is: Worship God! Do so by believing on His Son, Jesus Christ; by praising Him in His Church; and by obeying His law.
A wonderful perfection of God is His Love. We have a pamphlet entitled, “God’s Great Love for the World”—an explanation of John 3:16—which we want to distribute as widely as possible. We invite you to write for a copy, or as many copies as you can put to use, in care of the Business Manager of The Standard Bearer.