In some previous issues we have dealt with the ‘good’ Church’s attitude to Scripture. (Nos 15 & 19]. This week we look at how the Church should understand God the Father, as distinct from the Son and the Holy Spirit.
As far as the Trinity is concerned, and the relationships involved, we will always get into trouble if we go further than what the Scriptures actually teach. I believe it is not for finite human minds to fully understand how three could be one and vice versa.
This is a sticking point not only with Islamic understanding, but with most of the cults, who reason that, because we can’t fathom the infinite, it must be the infinite that is at fault.
But even with this proviso there are some Churches and leaders who have demonstrably faulty understandings of God the Father, and in this issue I attempt to point them out so you are not being conned.
To only take one aspect of God’s character and continually harp on that, as some preachers do, is not to teach the ‘whole counsel of God’ and it not only leads to misunderstanding but it can also breed heresy.
Denial and Distortion of God’s Attributes
A Church cannot possibly be sound in doctrine, as we are commanded to be by Jesus and the apostles, if it refuses to believe and teach what the full Scriptures say about God.
Many Church leaders today either deny some attributes of God, or they distort them for their own purposes, banking on the ignorance of their people or hoping they will not study for themselves, as the Bereans did [in Acts 17:11] in order to check everything Paul was saying.
Some will turn God into a benevolent gift-giver provided we follow the right formula to ‘release’ His blessings. This is the problem with the one-sided Word-Faith move-ment and it leads to the faulty expectation that we are not called to prepare to suffer in our Christian walk.
Others think God’s grace will not allow anyone to miss out on salvation, despite themselves. This leads to the heresy of universalism. One opposite of this is ultra-Calvinism which teaches that we have no choice in accepting or rejecting God’s grace.
No teaching about God is correct if it does not recognise His holiness as well as His love. The Bible clearly teaches God’s love for us as well as His hatred of sin; His judgment as well as His pleasure in righteousness.
Some preachers I know [listen carefully to yours] only talk about God’s love – they NEVER mention His wrath towards sin. This is a perversion of the truth.
One aspect of a lot of preaching today, which also filters down to the sheep – or maybe it has filtered up from the grass roots of the Church – is the modern concept that God the Father can be treated and addressed as if He were not infinite, all-knowing and all-powerful.
Some of this can be attributed to the fact that God IS love and He IS tender towards His children, but some want to trivialise that infinite love and make it what we think it might mean today.
Note that this criticism is not directed at a parent’s attempts to describe God to his / her little children. That is something completely different.
The trivialising occurs when, for example, an adult, supposedly mature leader says: ‘let’s give God a clap, or a cheer’, or when we encounter a preacher who makes silly jokes from the pulpit just to relax everyone – that isn’t worship. It treats God as a willing participant in a comedy routine. It’s disrespectful.
It is a travesty! The Scripture says: ‘Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.’ [Gal 6:7]. We can mock God when we trivialise Him.
Making God in Our Cultural Image
Compared to many previous generations, a lot of social commentators are saying ours in the early 21st century is more pleasure-seeking, more money-oriented, more loveless, less lawful, less self-controlled and less truthful than 50 years ago.
Much of this has infected the Church, just as predicted by Paul in 2 Tim 3:1-5. As a result, if we ignore or downplay the Scriptures, we tend to see and treat God through the eyes of those who are self-obsessed, rather than as hopeless sinners who have been mercifully saved by God in His great love and by His grace.
Unless we are aware of how our generation and culture are so different from others, particularly the 1st century generation of Christians, we will not be able to rectify our behaviour or our understanding of our infinite Heavenly Father, who is not bound by any culture.
The true God of the Bible is not limited to any description given by a Pope, or a preacher, or an ambitious youth leader, or you or me or anyone.
He and His character are ONLY to be found in His Word, the Bible. Not in my imagination or yours, but as the Holy Spirit reveals His Word to us through diligent study.
God’s True Nature Demands Obedience
In his book The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges says:
‘God wants us to walk in obedience – not victory. Obedience is oriented towards God; victory is oriented toward self . . . This is not to say God doesn’t want us to experience victory, but rather to emphasise that victory is a by-product of obedience.’
In other words – aim at obedience to the Holy God and we will be on the track towards a victorious Christian life of real and acceptable worship.
Only when we have a proper biblical understanding of God and His true nature can we expect to treat Him and worship Him in spirit and in truth as He demands.