Last week we answered the question, Does God exist? Today I want to start by looking at who God is. I want to lay a foundation upon which to build an understanding of what true salvation is all about. I want us to understand that it is much more than simply saying a prayer.
Since this is a Christian radio station, I am sure that most of you are saved. For those who are not, but simply think they are, I want to make clear how one is saved. Lest you doubt there are some who have all of the outward signs of salvation, who are not saved, listen to what Jesus had to say on this subject.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21-23)
These people had a misunderstanding of how one is saved. In order to understand salvation properly, we must first of all understand who God is, and why salvation is necessary in the first place. This lesson will introduce us to God, and the next lesson will introduce us to the problem.
When you ask most people what God is like, they will usually start with something like God is love. The Bible does say that God is love, it says it twice in the same chapter, and those two times are within nine verses of each other.
Love is definitely one of God’s characteristics. However, there is another characteristic that is much more important. The Bible says that He is holy more than 95 times. If God puts that much more emphasis on His holiness that He does on His love, don’t you think we should as well?
According to Webster’s 1828 dictionary, holy means whole, entire or perfect, in a moral sense. Hence, pure in heart, temper or dispositions; free from sin and sinful affections. Applied to the Supreme Being, holy signifies perfectly pure, immaculate and complete in moral character.
God is a God that is absolutely pure in every sense of the word. His holiness governs the rest of His attributes. This is something that is difficult for us to grasp because we have never seen anything in this world that is absolutely pure.
When I was pastoring in Washington State, I was talking about the Rapture with one of my men. What he said showed a lot of insight. He said it was scary. When I asked what he meant, he said we will be around people who don’t sin. I said, we won’t sin either, and he responded, Yes, its scary.
Did you ever wonder how someone would respond if they saw someone who is perfectly holy? Isaiah was a prophet of God for some time before we get to Isaiah Chapter 6. Listen to what he had to say when he got a good look at God.
In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. (Isaiah 6:1-5)
The Lord was high and lifted up, He was above everything. His train represents His glory, just like the train of a bride represents hers. The description of the seraphims is significant. They had two wings to cover their faces in humility before a holy God. They had two wings to cover their feet to show reverence for God. One of them cried to another, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts. This phrase is repeated at the end of the Bible.
And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. (Revelation 4:8)
Why do you suppose it repeats “holy” three times? The only reason I can think of is God is a Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All three of them are absolutely holy.
The whole earth is full of His glory. When we look at all we see around us and we can see the glory of God. The sky with the beautiful clouds on a peaceful day, the sunset at evening, the stars on a dark and clear night, all speak of His glory. The majesty of the mountains, the beauty of the grass and flowers in the valley all speak of His glory. The intricacy of all of His creatures show forth His glory. It is true that the whole earth is filled with His glory for those who have their eyes open.
The voice of the one crying was strong enough to shake the pillars of the temple. The whole of God’s house was filled with smoke. Think of all of these things, how would you react if you saw them? I think it would scare the tar out of anyone of us. That is the effect it had on Isaiah.
He responds to what is sees with, “Woe is me.” This is a pretty strong statement. I doubt very seriously that he said this standing on his two feet. My guess is that he at least fell to his knees, if not on his face on the ground. The expression “I am undone,” means that everything about him was brought to his mind, and he saw how bad he was in the light of God’s holiness. He saw that all of those around him were also undone before a holy God. Even the words of their mouths were unclean. This is something when we remember that Isaiah was a prophet, a spokesman for God.
I would like to contrast this with the way most people, including many of those who call themselves Christians, see God today. They see Him as a benevolent Santa Claus who will give them everything they want, and do them no harm. Many turn away from Him when they find out that all of their problems don’t go away when the “believe in Jesus.”
I can’t count the number of times I have seen people who were going through difficult times in their lives, and, when presented with the Gospel, made a profession of faith. They would even come to church regularly and get baptized, but as soon as the trouble ended, they could no longer be found. When they needed God they came to church so He would bless them, but as soon as they didn’t feel they needed Him, they had no more time for church. The Bible warns us about this.
For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. (2 Peter 2:20)
Notice that this verse says “the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” It does not say “faith in the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” These people had the knowledge, they knew the truth, but they only trusted that Christ would solve their problems, not that He was their Lord and Saviour. As soon as the problems are gone, they return to the world and the end will be worse than the beginning. This means that the problems they encounter later will be even worse than what they had in the beginning.
I digressed a bit there, now let’s get back to learning who God is. As I said earlier, one of the phrases most often used to describe God is, “God is Love.” The Bible has a lot to say about the wrath of God. Wrath means violent anger. God can become very angry when He sis provoked, and nothing provokes God’s wrath more than sin. Sin destroys His creation. Sin’s worst effect is that it separates man from God. One of the reasons God created man was that there might be sweet fellowship between man and God. When sin came into the world, this fellowship was broken.
Because sin harms God’s creation and separates man from God, God’s wrath is poured out against it.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; (Romans 1:18)
This verse tells us that God’s wrath is revealed, or made known, against all sin (ungodliness and unrighteousness). Notice the little word “all.” God sees sin as sin, He does not see little sins and big sins when it comes to exercising wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness. His holiness will not allow Him to ignore sin, He must punish it.
Another characteristic of God that should greatly concern us is omniscience. This means He knows everything.
Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: (Isaiah 46:10)
God is able to tell what will happen in the end from the very beginning. The Bible is full of prophecy, much of which has already been fulfilled in every detail. Since He is all knowing, nothing is hidden from him. God sees everyone of us, and He sees all that we do.
Great in counsel, and mighty in work: for thine eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men: to give every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings: (Jeremiah 32:19)
God will give everyone according to his ways. The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and eternal death is the lot of all who sin if they don’t repent and turn to God for mercy. I will say more about this in a future lesson.
Here are some things He knows about us:
- He knows how much hair you have on your head (Luke 12:7)
- He knows your words before you speak them (Psalm 139:4)
- He knows your thoughts before you think them (Psalm 139:2)
- He knows your prayers before you pray them (Matthew 6:8)
- He knows everything you are going to do tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, and every moment of every day (Psalm 139:16)
- He records every word you say, and will some day call you to account for every careless, thoughtless, unkind, and unchristian comment (Matthew 12:36)
- He hears every whispered word, and will one day shout them from the housetops (Luke 12:3)
It is a fearful though to know that someone knows this much about every one of us.
Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance. (Psalms 90:8)
None of our sins, no matter how secret they may be, are hidden from God, He knows them all. With this in mind, consider this next verse:
Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth [generation]. (Exodus 34:7)
Although God is merciful and forgiving, He will not clear the guilty. The price of sin must be paid. I mentioned above that the wages of sin is eternal death. As I said, we will deal with this more completely, but for now I want you to understand that death and separation from God in the Lake of fire is the penalty we must pay for our sin.
There is another of God’s characteristics that is involved here. He is a just God. His justice is controlled by His holiness. Justice demands that the price of sin be paid, and holiness will not allow him to clear the guilty. To break God’s law in any point is to be guilty before Him.
For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. (James 2:10-11)
It doesn’t matter at what point we have broken the law, we are guilty of all of it. The law is a unit, and it must be kept as a whole. If we expect to escape God’s judgment by keeping the law, we must keep it all, all of the time.
For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. (Galatians 3:10)
If you think you can be saved by keeping the law (the Ten Commandments), you are greatly mistaken. This verse tells us that if we don’t continue in everything that is written in the book of the law, we are cursed. The following verse tells us the result of the curse, which will be carried out at the final judgment.
And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. (Revelation 20:14)
There is an order to these lessons, and I don’t want to present things before the foundation upon which they are built is laid so this is a subject that we will cover in greater detail later, but for now I want you to know that this is the final penalty for sin. There is no escape from this penalty if we die unreconciled to God.
Let’s sum up what we have looked at today. Most people believe that God’s primary characteristic is love. It is true that God is love, and that His love is seen throughout the Bible, but it is not His primary characteristic. God is first of all holy. He is totally pure and without sin. Not only is He without sin, He cannot allow sin to go unpunished. He will not clear the guilty without the penalty being paid.
God is also a God of wrath. His wrath is revealed and poured out against all ungodliness and unrighteousness.
God is also a God of justice. The law prescribes the punishment for sin as the second death. This is an eternity in the Lake of Fire from which there is no escape.
We have also seen that we cannot escape the curse that is upon us because of our sin by keeping the law. This would require us to be as perfect as God. We would have to keep every point of the law 100% of the time. None of us have done that. This makes everyone of us guilty before God.
There is a solution to the problem, and most of you think you know what it is. I am sure that many of you are right, but I am just as sure that some of you are wrong. Some of those who are wrong may know the words, it is their understanding of them that is the problem. To get the proper understanding, we must first lay a proper foundation. This is the purpose of these lessons.