Today's Broadcast

A Puny God

A Message by Steven Lawson

If the church has a low view of God, its light will be dim, and the darkness will not be pushed back. Today, our concept of God is often sentimental rather than biblically based. Many people embrace what has been called "moralistic therapeutic deism," a view of God that says He exists to make us feel good about ourselves, and that He involves Himself in our lives only to affirm us and solve our problems. As long as we do not properly grasp the transcendent majesty and holiness of God, our light will not pierce the darkness. In this message, Dr. Steven J. Lawson proclaims the centrality of a high, biblical view of the Lord, calling upon God to restore the truth about His transcendent majesty and holiness in His church.

From the series: After Darkness, Light: 2015 National Conference

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. devotional

    Our Great and Glorious God

  2. devotional

    The Great I AM

  3. devotional

    The Glory of God

Our Great and Glorious God

One characteristic of Paul’s writing is his proclivity to insert a word of praise that also contains significant theological exposition when a term or subject he has just mentioned brings to his mind some aspect of the glory of God. For example, his discussion of the electing grace of God, the inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s people Israel, and the future salvation of the Jews in Romans 9–11 moves him to exalt the wisdom and knowledge of God in 11:33–36. We also find a poetic description of the Son of God’s humbling of Himself in His incarnation after the apostle encourages the Philippians to serve one another in humility (Phil. 2:1–11). First Timothy 3:16 magnifies the mystery of godliness after Paul calls deacons to hold firmly to “the mystery of the faith.”

Again Paul gives us doxological instruction in today’s passage as he uses “the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ” (6:14) as a springboard for expressing the perfections of God. We learn much from verses 15–16. First, we are told that Christ’s appearance — His second coming — will be displayed “at the proper time.” This reminds us that God is sovereign over the affairs of history and has appointed a day on which Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead (Acts 17:30–31). We are to fight the good fight of faith until that day, expecting our Father to use our service to hasten its coming (2 Peter 3:11–13). God is also sovereign over men, the “ruler over those who exercise rule,” and the “lord over those who exercise lordship,” as the Greek of 1 Timothy 6:15 can be more literally translated. Ultimate authority over all human authorities, great and small, belongs to our Maker alone (Deut. 10:17; Ps. 136:3).

The apostle highlights God as the one “who alone has immortality” (1 Tim. 6:16), reminding us of His self-existence. As John Calvin comments, “We and all the creatures do not, strictly speaking, live, but only borrow life from Him.” No living person has seen the Immortal One who dwells in unapproachable light, but this is a temporary reality due to our sin, for in our glorification we will see Him face to face (1 Cor. 13:12; 1 John 3:2). Calvin explains, “We must be renewed, that we may be like God, before it be granted to us to see him.”  

The Great I AM

Though Shakespeare’s Hamlet asked, “What’s in a name?” as if a person’s given name is wholly unimportant, we must keep in mind that a person’s name can be significant. We often can tell much about someone’s history from his name. A last name, such as “Carpenter,” for example, likely indicates the family profession involved woodworking at one time, even if the occupation was abandoned long ago.

In Scripture this is also the case. For instance, Abraham names the son of promise “Isaac” because the name means “laughter,” recalling the time his parents laughed at the idea of having a son (Gen. 17:17; 18:12). Yet not only are the names of men important in the Bible, God’s name also reveals much about His nature.

Today’s passage recounts the Lord’s encounter with Moses at the burning bush. Having heard the cries of His people (Ex. 2:23–25), our Father appoints Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt. When Moses asks Him to reveal His name, God replies “I AM” (3:1–14).

“I AM” is in Hebrew Yahweh, otherwise known as the tetragrammaton because of the four consonants (yhwh) that make up the phrase. It is the holiest name for God in the Old Testament, and it is for use by the covenant people. That the Lord has a name at all indicates He is personal and has a real relationship with mankind.

God’s name is in the present tense; He says “I am,” not “I was x, but am now y.” Our values or knowledge change, but the Lord remains the same (James 1:17). He is never inconsistent; we can therefore count on His wrath for sinners and His mercy for the repentant.

As we have seen, the difference between our life and the Lord’s is in how He exists. It is in God that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). Today’s passage confirms this. If the universe were to cease to exist, the Lord would live on; He does not need the universe, for He Himself upholds all things (Job 34:14–15). God is not contingent or derived; He has the power of being in Himself. He is self-existent, depending on nothing else for His life. This is known as the doctrine of aseity.

The Glory of God

We turn today to the first verse of the second chapter of James, wherein the apostle refers to Jesus as “the Lord of glory.” Even though this is an acceptable translation of the original Greek text, it is not necessarily the most accurate way to render the verse in English. As the note in the Reformation Study Bible indicates, it is also possible to translate “the Lord of glory” as simply “the glory.” In reality, it does not really matter which one we choose because the two translations are synonymous. However, to say Jesus is “the glory” is a good way to encapsulate a portion of the New Testament’s description of the majesty of Christ.

As someone from a Jewish background, James undoubtedly had the Hebrew term kabod in mind when he penned his epistle. “Glory,” or kabod in the original text, usually deals with weightiness or substance. When the Old Testament declares that God’s name is “glorious” (1 Chron. 29:13), it is ascribing weight or importance to His name. Basically, the meaning is that God possesses supreme gravitas; nothing is more important or greater than He, and no one deserves more honor.  

Under the old covenant, the primary way in which our Creator manifested His glory was in a cloud. (Ex. 16:10; 1 Kings 8:10). We do not know exactly what this cloud looked like, but we get the impression that it glowed brightly with some kind of unique light because this same cloud had to direct Israel through the wilderness after they left Egypt (Neh. 9:12). In fact, most of us probably think of bright light whenever we hear the word glory, and this is due to the fact that light is often associated with glory in Scripture (Rev. 21:23).

Christ is the incarnation of God’s glory (John 1:14), and it is the vision of this glory in the new heavens and earth for which we all hope. When Jesus walked the earth, this glory was usually hidden from plain view and only visible for brief moments to a select few of His disciples (Luke 9:28–36). But all who love and serve the Messiah will one day get to see the beauty of His glory. In the new Jerusalem we will see Him face to face (Rev. 21). 

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