Essential Teachings 1: God   by Steve Weston  

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Here is the first in a short series of articles covering essential, life-and-death, Bible teachings (no overstatement, as I hope will become clear).

In daily life we are all obliged, whatever our circumstances, to distinguish between things that are essential for life and those that are of less value. Eating, drinking, sleeping, breathing, being with family are undoubtedly activities that would be included among “essentials”. Participating in sports, going on holiday, visiting friends, going to the cinema or theatre, are on the other hand, less important activities, however enjoyable they may be. And every day we all make decisions that confirm our recognition of this crucial difference between the essential and the optional.

What is true for our everyday life is also true for what could reasonably be described as our ‘spiritual’ life. The Christadelphians are a Christian community which has existed under that name only since the 1850s, but which seeks to reflect as accurately as possible the faith and practices of first century Christians. It is inevitable that what qualifies as “essential” will be from our Christadelphian understanding of Christianity’s holy writings – the Bible. Topics covered in subsequent articles will be:


  The Bible – the Word of God

  Sin, human nature, the Devil/Satan

  The mortality of man, heaven/hell

  Jesus Christ - Son of God

  The resurrection

  The Kingdom of God on earth

  Baptism – for adults only

  The Jews - still God’s special people  

But there can only be one starting point: the existence and nature of God. I am personally convinced that there is a God, an almighty being, who dwells in “the heavens” but is everywhere by His spirit. The Bible informs me that: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting You are God”. (Psalm 90:2). In the first verse of the Bible we read: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Of course, I was not myself present at the time - I was not an eyewitness to this event. But I have the intellectual capacity to believe that this is an unquestionable truth: “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible”. (Hebrews 11:3)

Only human beings possess this “intellectual capacity”, and this is one of the most striking proofs that human beings are created by a superior intelligence. I have a cat at home; she is a lovely animal but completely without the ability to reason the way we do, nor to appreciate the range of our human experiences. All she needs in life is to be fed, to feel safe and to be comfortable. She cannot appreciate lovely music, nor the beauty of the countryside. She is no help at all when it comes to answering quiz questions.

The Apostle Paul wrote the following:

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known to God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal powers and divine nature, have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse". (Romans 1:18-20).

Can you see the importance of these words? The writer is saying that God, though invisible to the naked eye, is visible to us in the creation around us, with all its magnificent beauty and remarkable order. But that same intellectual capacity that distinguishes us from the rest of physical creation can lead us to ignore the evidence all around us. Paul continues: "Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God, God gave them up to a debased mind, to do what ought not to be done ...” (v. 28). We have all the faculties we need to recognize God, but we can use that ability to ignore Him. Our instinct to worship something greater than ourselves is in itself a striking proof that we are created beings, and if we are created it goes without saying that there is a Creator – the fundamental law of cause and effect!

Here are two more proofs of the existence of the God as presented to us in the Bible, which will be elaborated in subsequent articles. But first let us address a crucial question - what is this biblical God like? In the above quotation it is already evident that this is not an anonymous, indifferent, distant God. On the contrary, He is touched by men's reactions to Him, by those who recognise Him, and by those who reject Him. He is a God who possesses a special ‘character’, to use a term most often used when talking about human beings. God’s character is made easier to understand because it is described in a language that belongs to the daily life of the human world. For example, here is a passage from the book of Exodus when Moses asked God to reveal Himself to him:

"The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation." (Exodus 34:6-7)

Descriptions such as “steadfast love”, “merciful”, “gracious”, and “not clearing the guilty” lead us to perceive a God who is entirely accessible to our understanding. He is not, therefore, a God who is remote, nor is He neutral concerning what He has created. On the contrary, He is a God who is inclined to love, goodness, and patience, but who cannot tolerate evil, wickedness and the refusal to acknowledge Him. He wants to love and forgive, but He is also ready to punish. There is one God, but He has a multi-faceted character, which we can all recognise because we all have the same character with multiple facets. So, if man was created in the beginning “in the image of God,” as the Bible says in Genesis 1:26, then I myself am a striking evidence that God exists, and so are you!

In conclusion, let me mention the two other “proofs”, which will be developed in later articles. Firstly, if this had been written 100 years ago, nothing could have been said about the nation of Israel, because at that time it did not exist. Without any dispute there had been a nation of Israel previously. But during the 1st century AD it ceased to exist, because the Jews were driven out of their homeland by the Romans. And for 19 centuries there was no nation of Israel – just Jewish people wandering from one country to another, without a national homeland. But all that changed in 1948 when the modern state of Israel was declared, and today other players on the world political scene are obliged to recognise that it is there, where it was previously, whether they like it or not. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote about the people of Israel: “ are my witnesses, declares the Lord, and I am God” (43:12). And the prophet Jeremiah made this dramatic statement from God concerning Israel: “For I am with you to save you, declares the Lord. I will make a full end of all the nations among whom I scattered you, but of you I will not make a full end. I will discipline you in just measure; and I will by no means leave you unpunished” (30:11).

With these words, God links His own existence and character to that of the nation of Israel. If this nation had ceased to exist like all the other nations in history who lost their homeland, one would have been entitled to argue that the Bible has spoken falsely and that the existence of God has been discredited. But the nation of Israel lives again, and, without realising it for the most part, the Jews of today are living witnesses that God exists, and moreover, that He is still active in our world.

And the 2nd piece of evidence? It is the Bible itself. No doubt there are many homes all over the world where a copy of the Bible is on the shelf next to dictionaries, reference books and the works of great authors. But relatively few people take the Bible in their hands and read it regularly. The next article will consider why this book, which claims to be the Word of the living God, is worth taking off the shelf and reading carefully.

A list of archived articles can be found here


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