For many months now I have had a building desire to both study and preach about one topic in specific which is both simple in it’s specificity and yet intolerably complex to approach. I have a passion to speak to us about the person of God our Father.
Without a doubt, God the Father is the most neglected member of the trinity in our modern age. Part of this is due to the nature of what God is doing in Christ Jesus. At this time, and for this hour, God the Son is the central focus of the Father’s redemptive history. The Father Sends the son to save, the Son and the Father send God the Spirit to testify to the Son; but the Son’s ultimate goal is to reconcile men to the Father, for the Glory of the Father who is intent that everyone glorify the Son in the Spirit.
After laboring over the framework of this series I already feel a little abashed at what will undoubtedly be an inadequate attempt to explain to our hearts and minds the mystery and majesty of Our Great and Awesome God. But still I am compelled with a desire to do so in order that we might more fully know Him, Love Him, Worship Him and Serve Him. That and nothing less is my expressed goal for this series. I want you to more fully know Him, Love Him, Worship Him and Serve Him.
Born in 1225, Thomas Aquinas became one of the most influential theologians in history. He wrote prolifically and is perhaps best known for his work The Summa Theologica. (The Sum of theology). In the Summa Aquinas attempted to articulate a comprehensive theology from the foundation of Human reason. In the English translation Summa comprises 22 volumes. Tradition indicates that in the midst of worship Thomas Aquinas caught some vision of God revealed.
G. K.Chesterton records the life of Thomas Aquinas and notes that on December 6, 12731 “Something happened…the nature of which will never be known among mortal men.” When His friend asked and then begged him to resume writing Aquinas merely stated, “I can write no more.” Again he was asked to resume writing and with finality declared, “I can write no more. I have seen things which make all my writings like straw.”2 He died three months later (March 7, 1274).
I Obviously do not share Aquinas’ Catholic Theology and yet there is in Aquinas’ final statement some truth which I must inevitably embrace: I will not with any breadth of human wisdom have the capacity to describe and define the person of God; but loving God I feel that I must do my best to proclaim Him – for proclaiming Him lends itself inexorably to glorifying Him.
And I proclaim to you first of all things the singular truth that there is only one God. Deuteronomy 6:4 comes to us as a scripture intended to be both memorized and proclaimed by every believer:
“Hear O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4) In fact I think it would do well for you to say that together with me. (Repeat).
Your homework for this week is this: If you have never memorized that verse, memorize it!
One God uniquely among the ‘gods’ of the nations
The fact that God is one, at least in part needs to be set in terms of His uniqueness. The first thing that God is One means that there is no other One. There is no other God.
Despite the fact that we keep talking about living in a secular society America is increasingly a society in which every religion is seen as equal. It wasn’t much different in New Testament times. In 1 Corinthians 8 Paul talks about how formerly the Corinthian’s themselves were once involved in Idolatry. The ‘gods of the nations’, Paul says are nothing but empty and powerless. “we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. … yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” (1 Corinthians 8:4,6) It is not as if the God whom we serve is one powerful being among many, but that He is the only God who has created all things and we are His.
The uniqueness of God means that, while everyone from Islam, to Hinduism and Wicca whatever else you imagine can claim that they serve one god or another; they are at best serving nothing at all, at worse they are serving demons who are not gods at all but fallen beings. Two chapters later in 1 Corinthians 10:20 Paul says again, “the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God…”
The fact that the Lord is our God, the Lord is one means initially that He alone is God and there is no other. God is unique.
One God despite misunderstandings of the trinity
Deuteronomy 6:4 comes together with many New testament texts which teach about the trinity of God as well. In the baptismal formula of Matthew 28:19 we are instructed to baptize in the single name of God the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. We’ll hope to address the trinity more in a couple weeks but above all it is vital that we do not slip into separating Father, Son and Spirit in such a way that they become three equal Gods. Trinity is not the same as tri-theism.
Through the centuries the Church has gathered at crucial times to define as best we can these incredibly complex truths.
In 1561 A.D. Guido De Bres drafted what is known as “The Belgic Confession” In it’s thirty-seven separate articles it paints a broad sweep of Biblical doctrine from the Unity of God to the books of the Bible to the specific teachings on sin, salvation and eternity. While it excellently sets forth the Full Deity of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit it also ably and clearly states the full unity of God.
It’s first article reflects a foundational truth of today’s message: There is only One God.
The Belgic Confession ARTICLE I states:There Is Only One God
“We all believe with the heart and confess with the mouth that there is one only simple and spiritual Being, which we call God; and that He is eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, immutable, infinite, almighty, perfectly wise, just, good, and the overflowing fountain of all good.”3
The Eighth article of the Belgic Confession goes on to describe the tension that is built into that statement when compared to the doctrine of the Trinity.
The Belgic confession ARTICLE VIII: “God Is One in Essence, Yet Distinguished in Three Persons
According to this truth and this Word of God, we believe in one only God, who is the one single essence, in which are three persons, really, truly, and eternally distinct according to their incommunicable properties; namely, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father is the cause, origin, and beginning of all things visible and invisible; the Son is the word, wisdom, and image of the Father; the Holy Spirit is the eternal power and might, proceeding from the Father and the Son. Nevertheless, God is not by this distinction divided into three, since the Holy Scriptures teach us that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit have each His personality, distinguished by Their properties; but in such wise that these three persons are but one only God.
Hence, then, it is evident that the Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Father, and likewise the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son. Nevertheless, these persons thus distinguished are not divided, nor intermixed; for the Father has not assumed the flesh, nor has the Holy Spirit, but the Son only. The Father has never been without His Son, or without His Holy Spirit. For They are all three co-eternal and co-essential. There is neither first nor last; for They are all three one, in truth, in power, in goodness, and in mercy.”4
The fact that God is one does not detract from the Trinity and neither does the fact of Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Father being God detract away from the fact that God is one.
Initially the early church had to struggle with the doctrines of the trinity because it was a “new” revelation of the mystery of who God is. But now 2000 years later we could almost be said to have a better grasp of the trinity of God than of His unity. Above all things then I would like to help move us forward in our knowledge of God first by centering on the Unity of God and then by turning to the identity of the Father; that we may know Him the only true God.
One God numerically
Finally and basically, Deuteronomy 6:4’s declaration that the Lord is one means exactly what it says numerically. In other words it means what has already been said: that God is uniquely single in his existence. There is only one God. “There is numerically one indivisible, undistributed, living God. It is God’s inherent nature to be one.”5
The singularity of God may seem to us who have grown up in the church to be incredibly basic but it is also incredibly vital that we know and understand our Father.
“Nothing is of greater importance to sound faith and life than understanding of several of God’s attributes of greatness. It is not enough to have a feeling for God or even a love for Him. We need an intellectual apprehension of His characteristics… Israel of old was impressed by God’s power. They trembled at God’s thundering, trumpet-like voice and His fire at Sinai. But after a few months of camping on the spot, in a mass act of apostasy hard for us to understand after generations of inherited Trinitarian monotheism, they made an image of God which looked like a calf; then they worshiped it. The problem was they simply did not understand who God is or what He is like.”6
The doctrine that God is one is of preeminent importance in a world that is increasingly hostile to the existence and identity of God. The Lord is Our God, the Lord is One. He is unique among the gods of the world in that he is Himself God without being made. He is also not the God of the cults who design to separate Jesus from the Father and the Spirit as one of three Gods or in some other way as gods independent of each other.
Since there is but one God then there is only one God to please. Since there is but one God than there is only one God to know. Since there is only one God than every individual upon the planet is equally accountable to Him. Since there is only one God and all are accountable to Him than it is the unequivocal mandate that those who know Him as Father – yearn for others to know Him as Father. In other words the knowledge that the Lord is Our God, the Lord is One is a clarion call for those who know Him to reveal Him to the world as He has revealed himself to the world, in the person and Gospel of His son, Jesus Christ.
R. J. (2000, c1997). On this day : 265 amazing and inspiring stories about saints, martyrs & heroes (electronic ed.) (December 6). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
2G. K. Chesterton. St. Thomas Aquinas (75).
Rick. Editor. Historic Creeds and Confessions. 1997 (electronic ed.) Article I). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Rick. Editor. Historic Creeds and Confessions. 1997 (electronic ed.) (Article VIII). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Robert Duncan. Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical. Mentor. 2005. p.81.
Robert Duncan. Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical. Mentor. 2005. p.83.