What We Must Know About God
There have been books written in recent days stating that the only vital ingredient in salvation is faith. The important thing is not that we understand but that we believe! I’m indebted to Mr. Conn for the use of one more illustration: Suppose I were standing before your church group as a visiting guest speaker from Korea. I had an interpreter with me, but I neglected to use him at all during the course of my thirty-minute message. Then, putting my hand on my interpreter’s shoulder, I say to him, “Now ask them if they believe what I’ve just said.” What do you think the response of the English-speaking audience would be? “How can we believe what he’s said—we don’t even understand it!”
This is exactly the point Jesus made in His parable of the sower. We need to understand something before we can give—or should give our lives to God. A man doesn’t need to know a lot in order to come to Christ, but he does need to understand something, and then live up to that something.
There are those who resist embracing any theology at all. They are put off by doctrines or any attempt to explain God. To “feel God” or “sense His presence” is for them the only matter of consequence. “Experiencing God” is certainly in current vogue and the thrust of a growing number of churches. What has happened experientially to many of these “anti-doctrine” people may have been real, and was certainly exciting:
but nothing comes of it. It leads nowhere—there is nothing to do about it. In fact, that is just why a vague religion—all about feeling God … and so on—is so attractive. It is all thrills and no work … but you will not get eternal life by simply feeling the presence of God … C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Macmillan, p. 136.
In other words, if we are going to know God, grow in grace, and shed old character traits, we must do more than feel. We must obey. To obey, we must know and trust our Commander. We must understand His orders—not the why necessarily, but the what, and that means we must give attention to doctrine.
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB)
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine … for instruction … 2 Timothy 3:16
Now, when we look at God there are two fundamental things we can say about Him: He is uncreated and He is a creator. If you will look closely at these two words, you will notice that one is a fact while the other represents a choice. All God’s attributes can be summed up under one or the other of these fundamental aspects.
How many who are married felt that it was imperative to thoroughly understand the physical abilities of their partner before committing their life to them? How many of you ladies took your prospective husband down to a track and timed his exertion in the 100-yard dash, or drove him to a gym in order to obtain a tape measurement of his biceps? Sound ridiculous? Of course it is. I’m quite sure, on the other hand, that most of you would agree it is absolutely vital to know a person’s character before committing your entire earthly life to them.
Doesn’t it make sense to admonish the non-Christian to understand God’s character before committing themselves to an eternal relationship? When the world asks us questions that relate to God’s character, and we respond by saying that we can’t understand God’s ways, we are dangerously distorting the picture. No, I cannot understand God’s omnipotence, nor can I explain how He can be present everywhere simultaneously. But I don’t commit myself to God because He is omnipresent or omnipotent. I commit myself to Him because He is loving, just and kind!
We must distinguish between God’s Being, what He is, and His character or what He has chosen to do with what He is. Only when this is understood will we cease our foolish and dangerous generalizations that we cannot understand God.
The God concepts of the reconciled reflect a true understanding of His character. We can tell the man who thinks God is unjust that He is not arbitrary but reasonable in all His dealings with men. God will share His reasons with any sincere seeker to whom the information is necessary to bring that person to Himself.
To the man who views God as a tyrant, we can reveal a Being of unceasing creativity, a God of flexibility who is never arbitrary and whose hands are not tied by fate. For those who secretly fear a vindictive supreme being, there is a great need to understand the unconditional love of God. Finally, to those who through Calvinistic theology, or some other means, have come to consider God as an alien, we must introduce a personal God who cries out for them to know Him intimately. Much theology presents God in such a light that He resembles some type of Eastern philosophical greatness. This I’m sure must bring un- speakable grief to a God who longs to be recognized as a living and loving personality. If we made known a God who was rea- sonable, creative, loving, and personal, it wouldn’t be easy for the world to resist Him.
Therefore, since we have this vital ministry let us not be:
[W]alking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even If our gospel is veiled (covered), it is veiled to those who are perishing. 2 Corinthians 4:2–3 (NASB)